Gord Downie recently announced the posthumous double album Away Is Mine.Steered to life by “my oldest Toronto friend,” guitarist and co-writer Josh Finlayson, Downie recorded the album in July 2017 at The Tragically Hip’s studio in Bath, Ontario, mere months before he passed on October 17th that year. His final solo recording, the two-disc set features Downie’s last ten songs, each presented in electric and acoustic versions.
“This won’t be his last release, but these are the final ten songs Gord sang before he passed away. The last time he ever sang into a mic,” brother Patrick Downie wrote in a statement upon the album’s announcement. The 20-track collection highlights Gord’s poetic mastery at its most bare and personal, with vibrant yet haunting production that casts each song in different, otherworldly light. Away Is Mine will be released October 16, 2020 in deluxe limited edition 2LP, 2CD, and digital formats via Arts & Crafts.
After revealing the electric disc’s first two chapters, “Hotel Worth” and “Useless Nights,” today sees the release of both versions of “About Blank,” a centrepiece of the album that reflects, in either iteration, the duality of darkness and light, weight and weightlessness, at play in the character of Gord’s mind, in the words guiding his pen, at once a reckoning with and a freeing from existence. “I’m in awe of no one / anymore I have none of your fear,” he intones in just one masterful stroke.
“About Blank” embodies – in its most obvious and opulent measures – the spectral sound of Away Is Mine, no doubt owing to the uncanny context of its creation, but because it is so expertly intuited, and projected skyward, by producer Nyles Spencer. The song morphs from a plaintive bluegrass picker into a bizarrely upbeat electro-hoedown in under two-and-a-half minutes, with buzzy synthesizers mingling amidst fiddle trills and country twang before diving into ambient ether. On the loosely coined “acoustic” version, the song’s folksy roots are exposed, but soon belied by Gord’s voice in odd chorus with a pitch-shifted apparition, delighting in the auspicious refrain “Come be surrounded / By those who love you the most.”
A characteristically questing and idiosyncratic work that holds fast to its author’s unwavering artistic spirit, Away Is Mine is a contemplation on Gord’s life, written with his deft hand and forever inscrutable sense of humour even as he locked eyes with the Great Inevitability. As autobiographical as it is collaborative, Away Is Mine is a document of an artist disappearing into his art, essentially becoming his art through that process. Here, laid bare, is the process.
Like all of the music and the poetry and the memories and the mad genius Gord gave us during his 53 years on our planet, Away Is Mine is immortal. And yet it took a fearless reckoning with his own mortality to get us here. Despite the grim undercurrent or the “elephant in the room” during the album’s recording, joy is the guiding light of what Gord, together with loved ones, created over four summer days by Lake Ontario: joy in friendships, joy in family, joy in collaboration, joy in writing, joy in music and joy in mystery. Everyone involved in the making of Away Is Mine refers to it as “a gift,” the magic of which has carried through the completion of the album over this summer 2020, including the creation of the original artwork by Clare Downie and Willo Downie, Gord’s daughters.
“We feel so blessed for this opportunity. Simply described as gratitude. Grateful for another gift from Gord. A gift that has been our beautiful companion and an unintended source of solace in the face of life without him,” Josh and Patrick share. “May it lift you up and carry you onwards and upwards always and forever.
Away Is Mine. Away Is Yers.”
GORD DOWNIE AWAY IS MINE TRACKLISTING
1. Hotel Worth
2. Useless Nights
3. I Am Lost
4. About Blank
5. River Don’t Care
6. The Least Impossible
7. Traffic Is Magic
8. Away Is Mine
9. No Solace
11. Hotel Worth (Acoustic)
12. Useless Nights (Acoustic)
13. I Am Lost (Acoustic)
14. About Blank (Acoustic)
15. River Don’t Care (Acoustic)
16. The Least Impossible (Acoustic)
17. Traffic Is Magic (Acoustic)
18. Away Is Mine (Acoustic)
19. No Solace (Acoustic)
20. Untitled (Acoustic)