It was more than three years ago when Josh Finlayson heard the tracks that would make up his friend Gord Downie’s Secret Path project.

The veteran guitarist of roots-rockers the Skydiggers had played on all four of Downie’s previous solo records. But the tracks were more or less in finished form when the Tragically Hip singer first played them for Finlayson. The songs would eventually make up Downie’s concept album about Chanie Wenjack, a young First Nations boy who died in 1966 while attempting to escape from an Indian residential school.

It was released in 2016 as an album and graphic novel and became the subject of a TV special. But long before that, it inspired Finlayson’s own songwriting. The title track on the Skydiggers’ new album, Warmth of the Sun, is a response to Downie’s heartbreaking narrative. While not directly about residential schools, the song is about Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous people.

“We’ve clearly misrepresented what this relationship has been,” says Finlayson. “Not only misrepresented it, but really kind of buried it and we need to acknowledge that and change that pattern. ‘All I can say is let’s make this right’ — that’s the first line of the song and in general the feeling.”

Last year, Finlayson joined Downie and a group of other top musicians to perform Secret Path live for a series of shows. It was a moving experience for the musician. Downie, who passed away from brain cancer at the age of 53 on Oct. 17, had announced his terminal illness to the public by that point. But he had tirelessly promoted Secret Path, even after a gruelling Canada-wide farewell tour with the Tragically Hip.

“Gord leveraged everything he had,” Finlayson says. “He was going to leverage Gord Downie and Gord Downie’s illness and his legacy all on …read more

Source:: Calgary Herald

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