Have you heard the one about the sure-fire way to get a Yukon girlfriend? Gordie Tentrees has.
The Whitehorse-based musician has been telling that joke and its punch line “Have all your teeth” on stages for the past decade.
“I found myself constantly – before the show, after the show and during the show – talking about the North,” Tentrees said in a telephone interview from an Ontario tour stop earlier this week.
“It’s part of my show, really. Now it has become that way because that’s where I’m from, and I sort of feel it’s OK, and I know enough about it and have been through enough experiences in the Yukon to be opening my mouth about it, as opposed to some people who just come for a year or whatever.”
Tentrees has called the Yukon home for more than 14 years, but it’s taken five albums for him to allow the Yukon’s flavour into his music.
His latest offering, North Country Heart, doesn’t get officially released in Canada until July, and in the U.S. and Europe until the fall, but he’s going to be sharing the new tunes on an early Yukon-Alaska tour that begins April 27.
The Yukon connection is clear right off the bat with the first track, a slower, country tune about losing a girl in Dawson City.
But Tentrees doesn’t consider himself a country singer.
Rather he sees himself as a roots artist, a genre he defines as a melding of country, folk and blues.
The second song, heavy with classic blues riffs, proves that out. But his voice retains the country twang, complementing the toe-tapping bass beat.
While the album’s tempo changes like a switchback throughout, Tentrees’ country croon stays pretty constant.
“We really thought about it emotionally,” said Tentrees about the deliberate choices he and producer Bob Hamilton made to juxtapose quick and slow songs on the album.
“It’s kind of like what I’ve been trying to do forever, which is not to do what people would have expected or not to do what is normal. And sort of keep your own sort of originality intact.”
A song called Little Guy was written about his five-year-old son.
“It’s very hard (in this business) when you have kids,” he said.
“I didn’t want to miss his birthday, but last summer I missed his birthday, and even though we celebrated it before I left, I woke up and I was in Kamloops, B.C., in some hotel room somewhere and I thought ‘Man, this really sucks.’
“I was thinking of calling home and it’s a hard thing to do, call home in that situation, so I ended up writing a song before I made that phone call, to get through it, I guess.”
But in true Tentrees fashion, he quickly picks up the tempo again by the next song, a raunchy farewell to a girl clad in a red dress and plastic candy boots.
The second-last track, Sideman Blues, is a real gem that starts off with what sounds like grainy vintage voices sampled from an old western movie.
“That’s me and Ken Hermanson, the banjo player,” said Tentrees, chuckling. “It’s the two of us just being silly and talking like we’re two old blues guys in a corn field or something.”
Tentrees thinks this is his strongest album so far.
“It’s been, sort of, a long time coming. With the other albums, a lot of learning curves were happening and I feel like this one is probably the most refined one where it sort of is at a place where maybe I wish I would have started, but I kind of had to go through all those other albums and experiences to get here.”
Even after five albums and 10 years of touring, Tentrees isn’t bored or sick of it all.
“Not yet,” he said.
“And no one seems to be getting sick of me either, because they keep coming to shows so it’s a good sign and a good experience.”
Tentrees’ North Country Heart early release tour starts in Atlin on April 27. He plays in Whitehorse at the Yukon Arts Centre on April 28 and then heads to Dawson City for a concert April 30. He plays in Haines Junction on May 1 and then heads to Alaska.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at