It’s definitely cool, when you’re travelling in cold places, to hear great music. On our recent Adventure Canada trip to Antarctica, on a ship named the Ocean Endeavour, my companion and I were really pleased to hear the voice and guitar of Kevin Closs, a fellow Canadian who hails from Manitoulin Island in Ontario.
In Deep was produced in 2019 following a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. This is the twelfth independent album that Kevin has released. For many years, he’s been a professional musician, teaching songwriting in schools and performing at festivals and small venues across Canada.
Since 2015, Kevin has also performed on expedition cruise ships in both polar regions. He started in the Canadian Arctic as a guest singer, but graduated to being a guide and zodiac driver who is also qualified in firearms handling. (Yes, there are curious polar bears in the arctic!) Kevin also works as a guide in the Antarctic regions where penguins and seals hold us all spellbound.
It was our lucky day on the Ocean Endeavour, when after a day’s worth of guiding and zodiac driving, Kevin picked up his guitar and began to play in the ship’s Nautilus Lounge. What we heard was extraordinary.
Kevin played his original compositions from this latest album, In Deep, starting with the opening track, “Song of Svalbard.” This is a lament for the lives of thousands of whales and seals that were killed during the past centuries. Whalers and sealers from northern nations such as Norway plied the waters of the Arctic islands like Svalbard, plundering the ocean for the large oil-bearing mammals. This oil lit the streetlights of European cities, seal fur was made into fashionable hats, and whale baleen was used for the stays in womens’ corsets. What was left after whaling was banned, was a sea mostly emptied of whales, and nowadays old land-based whaling stations rust into history. The story in the Southern Ocean and places like South Georgia is much the same.
Kevin writes and sings with sensitivity and a wonderful talent for conjuring the atmosphere of the places where he has visited. He sings about polar bears, blue whales, the state of winter, the Beagle… (at the tip of Tierra del Fuego, named for Darwin’s ship, it is the waterway that expedition ships going to Antarctica must traverse….), and leopard seals, the scourge of penguins who must survive going to sea to find food, running the gauntlet of hungry pinnipeds. Kevin also pays tribute here to Leonard Cohen, including a gorgeous cover of “Suzanne.” It’s the only track on the album that Kevin did not write.
After returning from Antarctica, we were looking for ways to relive the experience and find again the magic that is that landscape. There is quiet, the sounds of water, the silence of ice and the heartbeat of the land. Colours in polar landscapes are beautiful; they are muted and subdued in vistas that take your breath away. Kevin’s songwriting somehow captures all of that in a very magical way. Take a listen…