Scottish-Canadian musician David Leask is well known for his musical and songwriting talent.
However on Sept. 18, Leask released what could be the most truly Canadian record ever.
Forget the fact that Leask’s newest album Voyageur In Song of six songs was recorded in Canada, using only Canadian engineers, musicians etc but the feature instrument, an acoustic guitar lovingly nicknamed Voyageur. Voyageur, a.k.a. Six String Nation is described as “Canada's most historical instrument, built from over 64 pieces of natural, indigenous, oral, recorded and contemporary history from each province and territory in Canada.” The guitar, its case and even the guitar strap are all made with different materials from wood, bone, plants and stones.
It was created in 1995 around the time of the Quebec Referendum. Building the guitar was a project created by Ontario radio personality Jowi Taylor and took more than a decade to collect the material and build. It was debuted on Canada Day 2006 on Parliament Hill
“It was a delicate project,” explains Leask in a phone call from Ontario. “To cover the responsibility what the guitar means and put it into music…can’t underestimate the power that guitar has, I just followed (songwriting wise) what stirred me.”
He said there were a lot of sleepless nights as ideas followed to him, trying to narrow down those ideas and then putting words to music and vice versa. All kinda of overwhelming with research being done on the histories of those moments and times in Canadian history which made up the project.
“Sometimes you don’t write the song, the song writes us,” Leask noted abut his seventh record. “It is the most Canadian record than I have ever done.
The songs themselves are part of history Fromm Louis Riel, John A MacDonald, the struggles of the Doukhobors in Saskatchewan. Canada is covered in the Voyageur in Song compilation.
Alberta is well represented as part of the guitar as pieces and fragments of the guitar are composed from places like John Ware's Cabin (Brooks, AB), one of Wayne Gretzky's hockey sticks (Edmonton, AB), Blood Tribe Ammolite from Kainai First Nation,(Standoff, AB) and a fragment from Hand Hills Lake Stampede Dance Hall floor (Hand Hills, near Hanna, is Alberta’s continuously longest running annual rodeo). It is in the middle of the back of the guitar. Also on the back of the guitar is the green ammolite which in the shape of a buffalo skull.
For example, the case bed near the top has sweetgrass embedded as presented from the Kainah First Nation at Tatsikiisaapo’p Middle School in Cardston in Sept. 2014.
The guitar has a piece of wood from the cabin of John Ware “often described as Alberta’s first black cowboy, pioneer, rancher and entrepreneur. That wood is part of the maple leaf design on the front of the guitar.
The main part of the face of the guitar is “legendary albino sitka spruce tree or the “Golden Spruce” which is sacred to the Haida people. The tree was cut by a logging protester in 1997. Through negotiations, a cut of the tree in 2006 produced the entire front of the guitar in 2006.
The construction of the Six Nations guitar was a major undertaking done by Taylor, a radio personality and public speaker from Ontario. Leask said he has listened to presentations done by Taylor and was inspired to use the guitar.
Leask saw Taylor and the debut of the guitar in 2006
“Was really taken in but it all and all the pieces which constructed the guitar,” explained Leask who is drawn to Canada’s history. “It felt very powerful and very emotional at the same time.”
Leask built a rapport with Taylor and he would eventually ask Taylor to be able to use the guitar. He kept the guitar at his home for a couple of weeks. Leask felt the rich, vibrant and emotional history of Canada through the guitar and was compelled to do some songs with it.
“How do a render a story from this,” explains Leask who felt a responsibility to tell those stories through music. “Filter through a voice.”
Leask immigrated to Canada from Scotland and has spent three decades doing his best to add to Canadiana through his music. He has lived in Canada longer than in his native Scotland.
He has done more than 3,000 shows including having visited Fort Macleod’s Empress Theatre. He has earned 20 awards since 2003 for his songwriting prowess. He also holds songwriting workshops and is a mentor and teacher at a Humber College's Graduate Certificate Program in Music Composition and the School Alliance of Student Songwriters.
To learn more and see close up photos of the guitar go to https://www.sixstringnation.com When Leask goes on tour he will post tour venues here at https://davidleask.com/voyageur In the meantime to get a copy of Voyageur in Song see https://davidleask.com/music