New Music Reviews: Tony Dekker – ‘Prayer of the Woods’

There has always been something quietly spiritual about Tony Dekker's music, a gentle reverence deeply rooted in nature. So it comes as no surprise that the Great Lake Swimmers front-man has released a debut solo album that feels as though it was lifted directly from a secluded cabin deep in the Canadian woods.

Prayer of the Woods is a beautifully stripped-down album, a reverential offering of quiet instrumentation anchored by a voice that could make the angels cry. Filled with imagery of peace deep within the wilderness and the meditation of long lonely highways, Prayer of the Woods is a collection of ten songs, bare-boned in instrumentation, but rich with poetry and emotion.

Tony Dekker – “Prayer of the Woods” (Official Music Video)

“Getting back to town isn't as easy as it seems,” Dekker sings in the opening words of the lead track, “On My Way Back”.  Those words set the tone for the gentle longing that prevails throughout the album, the longing for simplicity and for communion with nature. One hears the stillness of the trees in the glowing timbre of Dekker's voice and in the soft accompaniment of guitar and piano.

The title track of Prayer of the Woods is adapted from a hand-carved sign posted along the Bruce Trail in southern Ontario. The traditional poem, which graces forestry reserves throughout the world, espouses the same deep reverence for nature that has always been such a prevalent part of Dekker's songs. “I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,” the song begins. “Those who pass by, listen to my prayer: harm me not” it implores with its final words.

Prayer of the Woods contains eight original tunes (including the aforementioned lyrical adaptation) and a cover of Human Sexual Responses' “Land of the Glass Pinecones”. The album culminates, appropriately enough, with an unadorned cover of Gordon Lightfoot's “Carefree Highway”.

The fact that Tony Dekker could sing the phonebook and make it sound poignant and meaningful does not detract from the rustic power of Prayer of the Woods. This is an album that showcases the quiet beauty of both Dekker's poetry and vocal purity. Prayer of the Woods cements Tony Dekker's position as one of Canada's pre-eminent folk-poets, set to one day inherit the mantle of Canada's principal folk troubadour.

The full album can be streamed online at Exclaim!.

Barbara Bruederlin

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