Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Straight to the east of me, there are corn and soybean fields as far as you can see, with a buffet of trees about a mile in that direction, stopping the brown hills from going any further. Straight to my west, north and south are the same things to look out at, through these old barn windows. The sprouts of corn popping out into rows are dinky and thirsty as all hell right now, with the sun blazing down on them, even though summer hasn't even come close to setting in just yet. The leaves on the trees are half-heartedly flapping on this calm afternoon. The road that goes by this farmstead used to be gravel just a few years ago, before covering it with asphalt just couldn't be helped any more, the natural rumble strips grooved into the surface after the rocks had been scattered off into the ditch sent many cars out of control as they attempted to slow.
It's out here, in the relative middle of nowhere, where the barns are mostly falling down or long overdue for a new coat of paint, where one can just sit around and not see a thing. There are relatively few cars that go past and when a monster of a storm comes through, you're so isolated that it can honestly feel as if it's coming just for you. It's this feeling of being tucked away into your own private slice of the pie. You can go out into the yard in whatever you feel like and all of the little dramas that happen in your den or over the kitchen sink remain confined to the house because everyone but the rabbits in your garden and the deer eating your crops remains out of earshot.
Canada's Great Lake Swimmers write songs that swing us through these kinds of austere, green, brown and quiet as a moth places and let our minds wander a bit onto the unmarked trails that lead into those thick pockets of trees. Lead singer Tony Dekker is great at slow-dancing us into the moonlight or leading us into a past that was both better and worse, depending on who you're asking. He delivers beautiful sighs that aren't sighs at all, but gorgeous contractions of space and memory - all hitting like silent pangs.
We saunter over his gravel roads, ones that we recognize as being worn down to a mostly smooth surface that's been riddled with ripples and holes that will make your teeth crack. There's never been an easy way to be isolated. The complexities always hunt you down and, with the Great Lake Swimmers, those aspects are of the highest order.