Having lived in the Yukon for a dozen years, roots musician Gordie Tentrees has gotten used to bizarre questions from southerners.
“People have asked me ‘Where do you catch the smoked salmon?’ — ’cause they assume salmon comes already smoked — and ‘When do you turn on the Northern Lights?’
“I’m not kidding. They think we have a secret way, up here, of turning the Northern Lights on just for tourists,” said Tentrees, who will perform his “Yukon folk” music on Wednesday, March 30, at The Matchbox in Red Deer with fellow folkie Sarah Macdougall.
What southerners don’t know about the North is a lot — and Tentrees is always happy to enlighten.
For instance, who knew that the Yukon has the most professional musicians, per capita, in Canada? Tentrees attributes this to a “huge influx” of touring musicians who came to the area when the mines were operating on full-tilt in the late 1970s, and there were plenty of places to play.
While mining operations have since wound down, many musicians became enraptured with the austere beauty of the North and the hospitality of northerners — as much as Tentrees himself, who originally moved to the Yukon for a teaching job but stayed after trading teaching for a career in music.
“I have a cabin on five acres and it’s really beautiful,” said the 36-year-old native Ontarian, who is also bound to Whitehorse because of a shared custody arrangement for his four-year-old son.
Despite living in the historic city that was immortalized by the Yukon Gold Rush and poetry of Robert Service, Tentrees admits he only performs in Whitehorse about once a year — otherwise he tours in southern Canada and the U.S., and across the ocean to Europe.
His brand of roots music is referred to as “Americana” in the southern U.S., and ‘blues,’ in Europe. In fact, it’s a blend of country, folk and blues, which Tentrees refers to as “Yukon folk.”
The musician feels his ballads about the North and growing up in Ontario farming county — which earned his last album Mercy or Sin a couple of Western Canadian Music Award nominations, blend well with the Northern music of Macdougall, who was raised in Sweden.
Macdougall moved to the Yukon a year ago to explore the Canadian side of her heritage (the singer/songwriter has a Swedish mother and Canadian father). While she’s little known in Canada, Macdougall has built a strong fan following in the U.K. and Scandinavia, and Tentrees believes it’s just a matter of time before Canadians begin to appreciate her ample talents as well.
The two musicians will play some solo sets and some duets when they perform in Red Deer.
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert (doors open at 7 p.m.) are $25 from The Matchbox box office.