Whitehorse duo releases debut album

Musicians Grant Simpson and Kate Weekes have shared a stage together for several years. Now they share a CD, too. Beneath the Yukon Moon, which will be released on Saturday.

Musicians Grant Simpson and Kate Weekes have shared a stage together for several years. Now they share a CD, too.

Beneath the Yukon Moon, which will be released on Saturday, contains the tensions you’d expect from such a collaboration, as a blend of swing and folk, crowd-pleasing hooks and charming storytelling.

Simpson, 52, is best known as the musical director of Frantic Follies Vaudeville Revue. Weekes, 29, mushes dogs when she isn’t writing songs or performing.

They began playing together during what would become one of several cross-Canada tours, as each promoted their own musical projects. They also ventured together to China in 2010.

Both draw on disparate influences. Simpson, who plays piano, banjo and guitar, looks to jazz legends like Fats Waller for inspiration. For Weekes, who plays guitar, it’s the Beatles and Arlo Guthrie.

But bringing the two styles together is no big leap, said Simpson. “I’d hate to sound like a teacher. But when jazz started, it was folk.”

Curiously, the album contains no shared song credits. Performing may be a collaboration, but songwriting remains a solitary endeavour for both. And each takes the lead singing their own material.

(“I think I’m too controlling,” said Weekes. “I don’t think that’s true at all,” said Simpson.)

That’s not to say the two haven’t influenced one another. Some of Weekes’ recent songwriting has picked up distinct tinges of swing.

Each track is an original, other than a cover of Cole Porter’s Dream Dancing.

Both are big Porter fans. Simpson was enough of one to name his son Cole.

And Simpson often reminds Weekes of Porter’s example when she frets about her urge to flout established songwriting patterns. Porter did that all the time, to wonderful effect.

Most of the tracks are cheery numbers – especially the title track, a love song set to jangly, upbeat, ragtime piano.

But it’s not all light. Songs delve into the Japanese atrocities committed in the Chinese city of Nanjing and the shuttering of small Prairie towns in Canada.

The question of how heavy their music ought to be remains an open question the duo are still hashing out.

Simpson, with his background in producing the Follies, aims “to create an evening of entertainment.”

“There are songs that aren’t deep, they just feel good,” said Weekes. “But I don’t want to sing fluff that doesn’t mean anything.”

Several songs are about the Yukon, including Red Lantern, a reference to the award given to the slowest Yukon Quest musher, and Watch Sylvia Ride, which tells the story of Sylvia Heikilla, who brought her young children up to Whitehorse by horseback from Bella Coola, BC, in 1960 to found the Sky High Wilderness Ranch at Fish Lake.

Unusual instruments on the album include the erhu, a two-stringed Chinese violin that sounds, as Simpson puts it, “like a combination of a flute and a violin.” There’s also harmonium, mandolin, trumpet and accordion.

Do both believe they’d been born too late? Certainly, replies Weekes.

If she could pick, she’d be living in the 1960s or 1970s.

Simpson isn’t so sure, despite having contributed to an album named Born 40 Years Too Late by New Orleans North.

Lately his daughter has turned him on to hip-hop artists like Buck 65 and C.R. Avery.

“I love being in today’s scene in a lot of ways,” he said.

The CD release party on Jan. 21 is at the Old Firehall starting at 7:30 p.m.

Simpson and Weekes will be joined by musicians Keitha Clark, Bob Hamilton, Rob Bergman, Marg Tatam & Marc Paradis.

Contact John Thompson at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read