Over the past decade and a half, Canadian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Tony Dekker has quietly — in every sense of the word — become one of the major figures in the Indie/Folk Rock realm, as a solo artist and with his breathtakingly beautiful band, Great Lake Swimmers.
Beginning with GLS’ self-titled debut in 2003, Dekker has crafted a textural sound that combines the melodic calm of contemporary Folk in its varied hybridized forms with the atmospheric impact of Ambient and Electronic music and the emotional intensity of Indie Rock, the totality of that sound on full band display on their just released new album, The Waves, The Wake.
In literal terms, Dekker’s work with Great Lake Swimmers and on his own possesses a reverent hush that personifies his love of and concern for the environmental beauty of his home country (a handful of tracks from 2015’s A Forest of Arms were recorded in an acoustically unique cave system in Ontario). In the figurative sense, Dekker and GLS have neither sought nor experienced a mainstream breakthrough, and their catalog, available through microlabel (weewerk), slightly larger indie label Nettwerk or self-released by the band, has quietly gone about the business of attracting a fairly good sized and rabidly loyal fan base, but not the kind of success that results in mansion shopping for Dekker and his rotating cast of collaborators.
At the same time, Great Lake Swimmers has not gone unnoticed by the musical powers that be. The band’s 2009 album, Lost Channels, was nominated for a Juno Award and a Canadian Folk Music Award, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Polaris Prize. The following year, GLS won the Canadian Indie Award for Favourite Folk/Roots Artist/Group.
Even a cursory listen to Great Lakes Swimmers’ extensive 15-year catalog, shows that Dekker and GLS are not in the market for any industry-dangled brass ring but are completely satisfied with making gorgeous and evocative music for whoever has ears to hear it. With every heartfelt song, plucked string and percussive stroke, Great Lake Swimmers leaves the numbers to the accountants and charts a course for the soul of empathic music listeners everywhere.