Kenny Kirkwood imagines A Oneness Without Sides in his soulful and heart-felt new single and video — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
A thought-provoking wish for unity, equality and reconciliation, A Oneness Without Sides is the third preview of the Juno-winning Toronto musician, educator, and folktivist’s upcoming album Debwewin: 13 Songs for 13 Moons, titled after the Anishinaabemowin expression referring to one’s heart-truth.
“It reflects my journey to acknowledge the heart-wrenching truths about global capitalism and environmental damage,” explains Kirkwood, who wrote the song 2002 during a time of tremendous personal growth. “The music conveys a hopeful longing for a better future — one found through community, and that honours Indigenous people and wise teachings. Care for the Earth, and celebration of differences.”
Kirkwood’s beautifully honest, forward focused lyrics in A Oneness Without Sides are brought to life by a supremely talented and lauded collective of musicians. Gemini-nominated actor, singer, and activist Alana Bridgewater lends her powerfully soulful vocals to a string arrangement by Andrew Downing, with Michael Occhipinti on guitar, Carlie Howell on bass and Dave Clark on drums; the track was mixed by Joe Lapinski and mastered by Fedge.
Addressing hard societal and political truths in song requires conviction, and Kirkwood credits two very highly regarded Canadian musician-activists with helping him find his courage to do so. “Along with Buffy Sainte-Marie, who is a guiding light for so many worldwide, I grew up listening to Bruce Cockburn — and, at a time in my 30s when I was looking for the meaning in my music, my parents suggested I take inspiration from his messages and actions.
“I then had a pivotal moment while playing saxophone with Gord Downie in 2003,” Kirkwood recalls. “He answered a fan’s question about whether musicians should be political, saying ‘Artists are citizens, citizens are people. If a mic is thrust in front of your mouth, you can decline to comment, but if you have one, I guess you should let ‘er rip. GIV’ER!’ That gave me a lot of courage to keep writing and sharing my meta-political views through music. Downie said it would take Canadians 150 years to build an actual nation. I figure we may as well get started. Why wait to heal?”
Some of that writing and sharing has come through Kirkwood’s collaborations with Indigenous people on Turtle Island, working towards reconciliation. He collaborated with Anishinaabe and Onkwehón:we 2-Spirit people to create Reconciliation Through Music 2017, and has performed with award-winning Haudenosaunee blues-jazz-rock artists such as Derek Miller, Lacie Hill, Joshua Arden Miller, Cheri Maracle, Murray Porter and The Ollivanders. He has also worked with other notable Canadian artists, including Kim Mitchell, Jacksoul, Kevin Breit, NOJO and Paul Reddick.