After the disintegration of Chicago’s blues-rock innovators Red Red Meat, the band’s four remaining members struck out on their own, initiating several varied endeavours but never straying too far from their home base, or each other. Ben Massarella and Tim Rutili revived their Perishable Records imprint, Brian Deck opened the Clava recording studios, adjacent to the Perishable offices, and Tim Hurley recorded and released his own Sin Ropas project on the resurrected label. While enduring the fluctuation between crisis and monotony inherent in the daily operation of a small, independent record label, Rutili began work on his next musical project, Califone.
Named after the pedant audio supply manufacturer, Califone was initially just Rutili banging out songs with a computer. Eventually, he began to enlist the help of some familiar cohorts and cycled through several transient contributors; ultimately, the revolving cast spawned 1998′s self-titled debut EP. While still incorporating the bizarre sounds and sequenced beats of that record, this time the band didn’t allow its in-studio experimentation to overwhelm the songs.
A second self-titled EP followed in 2000 on Portland’s Road Cone label, which soon after was paired with the first on the Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People compilation. With Califone’s fundamental studio lineup at least temporarily solidified as Massarella, Rutili, and Deck, the band recorded its debut LP, Roomsound, with an open-door policy; members of Eleventh Dream Day, Tortoise and Fruit Bats all performed on the album. Released in the spring of 2001, Roomsound fused the disparate elements the band had been struggling to unite since the final Red Red Meat record, creating a cohesive, affecting album.
Released in 2004, Heron King Blues further refined their blending of melodic acoustic compositions and experimental tendencies before the band went on hiatus for most of 2005 while Rutili focused on soundtrack work. The band reconvened in late 2005 to begin work on Roots & Crowns, released in October 2006. All My Friends Are Funeral Singersfollowed in 2009. Bluesy, broken, and impressionistic, 2013′s Southwest-birthed Stitcheswas the first Califone release to be recorded entirely outside of the Windy City.
Great Lake Swimmers lead singer and songwriter Tony Dekker will release a solo album called Prayer Of The Woods in October 2013 on Nettwerk. The album, which Dekker refers to as a ‘musical interlude’ between Great Lake Swimmers albums, is reminiscent of early GLS recordings in its quiet and intimate approach, and presents a stark portrait of a Canadian troubadour. Prayer Of The Woods was chronicled in two parts during June 2013 at the historic St Brendan’s Church in Rockport, Ontario. All of the instruments and vocals were played and sung by Tony Dekker, including guitars, accordion, mandolin, piano, pump organ, Hammond B3, mellotron, harmonica, autoharp, and percussion.
Upon listening to the album, listeners will find songs of geographical reference (Somewhere Near Thunder Bay), contemplations of mortality (Final Song), finding spirituality in the natural world (Prayer Of The Woods), and ongoing existential crisis (Hearing Voices). There are also new interpretations of a couple of classics: Land Of The Glass Pinecones and Carefree Highway. The title track is based on an anonymous poem of Portuguese origin that has become known in forest reserves throughout North America.
As the principle songwriter for Great Lake Swimmers, Tony Dekker was nominated for two Juno Awards, has won two Canadian Independent Music Awards for the albums Lost Channels (2009) and Self-titled (2003), was short-listed for the Polaris Prize (Lost Channels) and long-listed for New Wild Everywhere. Great Lake Swimmers were hand-picked to open concerts by Robert Plant, Jeff Tweedy and Feist among others, and have been called ‘a national treasure’ by the CBC. Notable television and film soundtracks include the series Weeds and American Idol (Your Rocky Spine), as well as original soundtracks composed for the 2008 documentary Song Sung Blue and the e-Book One In A Thousand.