Whitehorse pay tribute to Massey Hall with new EP
There are few venues more revered in Toronto than Massey Hall. Since it opened in 1894, it's been host to some of the most seminal performances in the city's musical history. To put it bluntly, Massey Hall is the big time.
And tonight, Whitehorse (comprised of husband-and-wife team Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland) are headlining their first show there. Last year, Whitehorse's innovative take on Canadian folk & rock brought the house down around the corner at the Winter Garden, but tonight, they try in the rarefied air of Massey Hall.
Whitehorse have dubbed this leg of their winter tour "The Road To Massey Hall," and since it kicked off in Vancouver, the band has crisscrossed Canada and the United States, from Lethbridge to Chicago, Winnipeg and Milwaukee. All told, they've played 18 shows since the end of January.
As well, Whitehorse have been releasing piecemeal videos alongside an EP (available on Six Shooter Records). They feature mostly covers of artists whose careers have been associated closely with Massey, paying tribute by reworking songs made famous there. It's a great EP, so much so that I can resist sharing the videos that have been released so far. Check them out below.
The EP begins with 'Winterlong,' a slightly obscure Neil Young track; it's amazing how full Whitehorse sounds, even with just two guitars and vocals by Doucet and McClelland.
Blue Rodeo's 'Dark Angel' finds Whitehorse even more stripped down; with nothing more than a little reverb and a single acoustic guitar for most of the song, Doucet's short solo is almost jarring. Almost.
Their dreamy take on 'If You Could Read My Mind' is almost good enough to make me forget this, which is saying something, yeah? Gordon Lightfoot's probably the most fitting artist to cover on this EP; he's logged the most solo performances at Massey of any artist. (There's your interesting fact for the day).
Of Bob Dylan's 8 performances at Massey, by far the most famous was in 1965, where he and The Band pulled out their electric instruments for the second half, earning the folky wrath of the audience. No word on whether or not they played 'It Ain't Me, Babe.'
'Strawberry Blonde' (originally from Ron Sexsmith's unbelievable 1997 release Other Songs) unfolds slowly, Doucet and McClelland telling in tandem a story Sexsmith's voice dominates on the original. Like so much of their material, it's that two-voiced approach that gives Whitehorse a unique slant on this track.
For the last track Doucet and McClelland reprise their version of 'Un Canadien Errant.' The song serves as a coda to this EP, gentle tremolo on the guitar letting the audience down gracefully.
All told, the Road to Massey Hall tour will take Whitehorse to play an astounding 33 shows in just over 3 months. More than just a tour, though, it's an opportunity for two great songwriters to pay their respects to one of the greatest venues in the country.