Home Feature Tom Wilson Tehaohàhake releases ‘Death Row Love Affair’

Tom Wilson Tehaohàhake releases ‘Death Row Love Affair’

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This past April, the personal odyssey of Indigenous Canadian musician Tom Wilson Tehaohàhake hit a new milestone when his 2017 novel, Beautiful Scars: Steeltown Secrets, Mohawk Skywalkers and the Road Home — which had already been adapted into a 2022 film documentary — was presented as a stage musical at Hamilton’s Theatre Aquarius. Now, Tom’s own take on one of the big numbers from that show, “Death Row Love Affair,” is being released as a single, adding yet another chapter to his captivating story of healing, while acting as a tantalizing preview of a new album he’ll be delivering later this year.

In the show – co-conceived by Tom and writer/actor Shaun Smyth – the song provides a powerful closer to Act One. Tom’s own rendition is an achingly honest rumination, with a hovering ominousness that perfectly befits its depiction of a human soul at a reckoning point.

Tom calls the song’s sentiments “words of love from the silence between heartbeats.” The recorded track fills those silences perfectly. With no percussion to interfere with its almost free-time introspection, it paints an exquisitely unhurried portrait of wistfulness. Completing that portrait was a task Tom entrusted to producer/engineer Gary Furniss, who also played guitar, bass and keys on the track, augmenting Tom’s own lead vocal and acoustic guitar. Thompson Wilson provided additional vocals, with Jesse O’Brien on piano and Aaron Goldstein on pedal steel and baritone guitar.

“Death Row Love Affair” is the latest installment in the Beautiful Scars project, an ongoing chronicle of the culture shock Tom experienced upon discovering the Mohawk heritage that had been kept from him by his adoptive parents. As a musician, he’s taken to branding himself as Tom Wilson Tehoháhake to better reflect that heritage (“Tehoháhake” being Mohawk for “two roads”). And he’s made the trials of people like him a key focus of his efforts as a musician, writer, and visual artist.

“The intention of my writing, my music and my art is to reduce the gap between my Indigenous culture and colonialists to make a more patient, loving community,” he said.

He certainly has the artistic pedigree to get people to listen. Tom’s tireless efforts as a musician have netted him numerous nominations and awards, and he’s gone gold and platinum over the course of his storied recording career — which has encompassed releases as a solo artist and with his popular bands Junkhouse, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings and the Lee Harvey Osmond band, winner of a 2020 JUNO for their album Mohawk.

As a songwriter, Tom has seen his work recorded by and with artists like Sarah McLachlan, City and Colour, Jason Isbell, Colin James, Lucinda Williams, Billy Ray Cyrus, Mavis Staples and The Rankin Family.

His forays into fine art have included Beautiful Scars: Mohawk Warriors, Hunters and Chiefs, a successful exhibit at the Art Gallery of Burlington. In its wake, Tom’s paintings have been displayed in various galleries across Canada — including Toronto’s Cultural Goods Gallery and Tom Beckett Fine Art in Hamilton — and collected in a book, the recently published Mohawk Warriors, Hunters and Chiefs: The Art of Tom Wilson Tehoháhake, available from New Brunswick’s Goose Lane Editions.

In 2020, he established the Tom Wilson Indigenous Bursary in Honour of Bunny Wilson, his adoptive mother, at McMaster University. The bursary helps first-year Indigenous students from Ontario secondary schools to complete their undergraduate education.

All that activity hasn’t gone unnoticed by his country. Last year, Tom was named a Companion of the Order of Canada—the second-highest honor the system bestows — “for his multifaceted contributions to the arts in Canada, notably as an iconic musician, as well as for his advocacy of Indigenous communities in Canada.” This September, he’ll be formally appointed to the Order. And that isn’t the only honour coming to Tom this year. On June 6, as part of Canadian Music Week, he received the 2024 CMW Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award during the Jim Beam Indie Awards at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.

See Tom Live:

June 15 – Markham Village Music Festival, Main Street, Markham, ON
Oct. 4 – Creemore Festival of Arts, St John’s United Church, Creemore, ON
Oct. 5 – Market Hall Performance Centre, Peterborough, ON
Oct. 18 – Festival of Small Halls, St. John’s United Church, Brockville ON
Oct. 19 – Festival of Small Halls -Westmeath Recreation Centre, Westmeath ON
Oct. 26 – Festival of Small Halls -Old Town Hall, Waterford ON

With Junkhouse

  • July 18 – Algonquin Theatre, Huntsville, ON
  • July 19 – Crewfest 2024, Lions Park, Brantford, ON
  • Aug. 2 – Rockin’ the Fields of Minnedosa 2024, Minto, MB

With Blackie and the Rodeo Kings

  • July 13 – Hope Volleyball Summerfest 2024, Mooney’s Bay Beach Park, Ottawa, ON
  • July 21 – Hillside Festival 2024, Guelph Lake Conservation Area, Guelph, ON

 

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