I spoke with Lyn Heinemann of Vancouver’s Drawn Ship for the current issue of prairie dog. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in that article was Heinemann’s collection of songs about Louis Riel.
“I’m always interested in history and I like writing songs about wars and battles,” she told me.
“Is that where the song ‘Execution’, about a Louis Riel, comes from?” I asked.
“You must know Leah Abramson,” she said. “Abramson Singers?”
“Of course,” I said. “I she opened for Roger the first time I saw him play.”
mp3: “Fool’s Gold” by Abramson Singers
“Leah’s a good friend of mine,” Heinemann continued. “Years ago—we’re such typical procrastinating musicians—we were like, ‘let’s write a musical, let’s a bunch of songs about a theme and try to work them into a play!’ So we decided to write a series of songs about Louis Riel, kind of biographical pieces. Leah must have written about four, and I wrote six or seven. A couple of them show on Portico’s last record and there’s a couple more that I’ve never performed with anyone.
mp3: “The Battle of Duck Lake” by Portico
“Leah, on her last record, she’s got one of those songs too. We each took chunks of Riel’s life and wrote songs about them trying to do a comprehensive story. So the song ‘Execution’ is about Louis Riel’s decision to kill Thomas Scott. By all accounts he was a total asshole, not that anyone deserves to die, but if you were going to pick someone, you’d probably pick that guy. That’s later what got Louis Riel killed. He was tried for treason, but he was hanged for the murder of Thomas Scott. Which was kind of bogus.”
Emmet Matheson is a freelance writer who blogs at A Bulldozer With a Wrecking Ball Attached. You can e-mail him at: bulldozerDOTwreckingballATgmailDOTcom