(Universal Music Canada)
How brave is Gord Downie. Battling terminal brain cancer, having completed an exhausing national tour to promote The Tragically Hip’s `Man Machine Poem’ and barely able to remember his own name.
Yet Downie has summoned the courage and strength to release `Secret Path’ a solo conceptual record which recounts the sad death of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old indigenous boy who died of exposure besides a railway line after running away from a residential school in Kenora.
This incident may have occured 50 years ago, but it’s an event that has haunted the 52-year-old Kingston Ontario native. Downie didn’t speak much during The Hip’s recent tour but on their last date, that was televised nationally by the CBC, he did speak out in support of indigenous people and the wrongs that have been traditionally been inflicted upon them.
Three years in the making, but delayed to coincide with a book of the same name by Jeff Lemire that accompanies this album. `Secret Path’ an animated television special will be aired on CBC October 23rd.
Co-produced by Kevin Drew and Dave Hamelin (who also co-produced Man Machine Poem”, the 10 tracks on `Secret Path” graphically describe Wenjack’s fate, Downie’s evocative lyrics providing a first-person viewpoint on what Wenjack must have been feeling as he succumbed to the elements.
Musically, Secret Garden could be described as moody and experimental, as fitting the nature of the concept, but never deflects away from the album’s lyrical message.
“This is about Canada,” Downie noted in a statement. “We are not the country we thought we were – We are not the country we think we are.”
Secret Path, aside from raising the issues of the mistreatment of indigenous people, will also serve as a fundraiser for The National Centre For Truth And Reconciliation.
Suffice to say, this is not a Tragically Hip album. It is quite possibly the final statement of a very brave and courageous individual who has deemed to spend what final time he has left on this planet, issuing a record to champion a cause he is passionate about – and something we should all believe in.