Originally from Wainfleet, Ontario, neo-folk quintet Great Lake Swimmers play music as idyllic as their scenic rural hometown. Frontman Tony Dekker’s light, sweet voice and melody-driven songwriting is partnered with familiar bluegrass backing instruments: acoustic guitar, banjo, upright bass and violin.
Dekker tells EW, though, that “as a group, we have a deep respect for the folk tradition, but I wouldn’t exactly call us a traditional folk band.”
One of the Great Lake Swimmers’ trademarks, in fact, is their aptitude for switching up instrumentation while retaining the aesthetic and feeling of folk. While their first few full-length albums were crafted from a bare acoustic song structure with pastoral track names like “I Saw You in the Wild,” newer albums such as the April 21 release A Forest of Arms include electric guitar and rock-style drumbeats.
Experimentation goes even beyond instruments; several tracks on A Forest of Arms were recorded in the Tyendinaga Caves and Caverns of Ontario, lending the record an overarching airiness.
“If you line up all six of the albums, there is a through-line … I think of the new album as being part of that continuum or arc,” Dekker says. “That being said, when we were getting ready to record A Forest Of Arms, there was a focus on the rhythm section.”
Ironically, Dekker says his favorite track from the new album (and the one that seems to resonate most with live audiences) is “Don’t Leave Me Hanging,” a straight-ahead ballad steeped in sincerity.
“It’s one of the quieter ballads in the set and on the new album, and seems to really stop people in their tracks,” Dekker says, noting it is gratifying to him because “it’s the song on the album that I think I spent the most amount of time on.”
Fellow Canucks The Weather Station join Great Lake Swimmers 8 pm Monday, June 8, at Cozmic; $11 adv., $13 door.