Joel Plaskett Reviews Gord Downie’s Posthumous Away Is Mine

The iconic songwriter and Thrush Hermit frontman shares his listening notes.

I watched Gord Downie nightly from side-stage when we opened for The Hip across Canada and the United States. He was a dancer, with a handkerchief and mic stand as his partners. Now I think he has become the dance. 

Away Is Mine, the new album of his final recordings, is a moving testament to Gord’s distinct shimmy between intuition and intellect, knowledge and know-how, heart, and art.  If I must, for the sake of the review mirror, break this musical sum down into some of its musical parts, here are scattered notes from inside my headphones:

  • Droning open C cowboy chords go-a-wandering.

  • Cool percussive things keep happening: congas? Hands on a wall? Boots on a floor? Guitar “chicka chicks”?

  • Synths percolating some great melodies, rustling sounds in the background, ups ‘n’ downs.

  • That fiddle sounds wicked.

  • Chicken pickin’, counterpointin’, and playful low-register vocal tangents. Countrified Brian Eno moments: Here Come the Worn Frets?

  • Top-shelf band arrangements, playing, and production: everyone involved here are smoking at playing it cool.

  • “I want what’s beautiful, I don’t need what’s true.”

  • Great words amidst other great words about writing about words. Fool’s errand for this reviewer to write many more.

So, a swan song that finds me at the right moment; with a microphone stand in one hand and handkerchief in the other, reaching for my eyes. Gord’s reminder to keep dancing, tumbling toward an evolving truth, and living in what’s beautiful along the way.

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