There is quite a distance between Whitehorse (the only town in the Yukon with more than 1,400 inhabitants) and Austin, Texas. In fact, there are 3,437.9 miles that separate them.
But musically, they are in the same neighborhood, especially when it comes to the Yukon’s number one musical export, Gordie Tentrees. Don’t take my word for it, just ask Austin mainstay Gurf Morlix (who’s partnered with the likes of Lonestar stars Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Patty Griffin and Robert Earl Keen). He described Tentrees’ tunes as "Real and dusty as any unpaved roads I’ve ever been on. I’m thinkin’ the Yukon might have a lot in common with Texas."
Tentrees, who will be performing tonight with his band The Hill Country News at the Bellows Falls Opera House Lower Theater, is spending an enormous amount of time on roads both paved and unpaved as he tours in support of his new CD, "North Country Heart."
"We are currently on an eight-country 120-concert date tour with only eight days off," Tentrees explained in a recent e-mail exchange. "By the time we hit Bellows Falls we will have played 47 straight shows in a row, over 9,000 miles."
Though the former teacher, boxer and breakdancer is travelling far from the Yukon, his new album is anything but that. "The majority of the album is written about my home, my experiences there, the characters that live there, the
As a musician, Tentrees admits to being somewhat of a late-bloomer. "I wrote stories and poems for years but never touched an instrument until I was 24. I was a writer and performer (acting, dancing, boxing) way before I played music. I was a school teacher in the Yukon where music is a celebrated part of the community. Once I wrote one song I was hooked. I quit my teaching job seven years ago to do music full time. I played part time for five years before that but actually walking away from another job (teaching) I loved and a regular paycheck was both tough and exciting."
Tentrees learned how to enthrall just about any audience while touring as a member of Fred Eaglesmith’s band -- an outfit quite familiar to fans of roots music in Southern Vermont. And he is pumped to be heading this way to show off his new songs and his new band.
"It has been nearly five years since I played in Bellows Falls and a lot has happened to my show since. I am really looking forward to coming back especially with this band, a collection of Canadian superstars -- Pat Philips (drums), Rachelle Risling (upright bass) and legendary pedal steel/guitarist Roger Marin, formerly of the Fred Eaglesmith Band and also a great songwriter in his own right. This show has everything that attracts me to live music, songs, stories, multiple instruments, humour, sadness, rock n roll, old school blues and folk songwriter material. I think it is important to go see a dynamic concert that connects with everybody no matter their age or musical interests."
After playing Vermont as well as Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, England, Scotland and Italy, Tentrees will be glad to get back to his roots.
"I plan to hide out in the woods where I live, wrestle a few grizzly bears and likely start recording another album. I feel like the luckiest person I know, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings, one chord at a time."
Gordie Tentrees and The Hill Country News perform tonight at 7:30 p.m., at the Bellows Falls Opera House Lower Theater. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Tickets are available at Village Square Booksellers and Fat Franks in Bellows Falls, Turn it Up! in Brattleboro and Misty Valley Books in Chester. For more information, call 802-463-9595.
Dave Madeloni writes a weekly music column for Ovation. He can be reached at email@example.com.