linden tree near the water

At once a requiem, celebration and love letter in 12 songs, Linden Tree near the Water is a troubadour’s outpouring of love and loss laced with faith and hope—and an attempt to heal a harrowing fracture that left two hurting souls hurting even more.

The story goes something like this. He: depression, anxiety, autism spectrum. She: bipolar, abuse survivor, schizophrenia. They meet at a support group and experience an immediate connection coupled with raging physical attraction. She flickers in and out of his life, eventually landing in a psych ward. Determined to reconnect, he tracks her down. Their weekly visits feel warm, restorative and loving. Then one afternoon, she says, “They’re discharging me soon. Can I come live with you?” She arrives at his doorstep on a blistering July day, and so begins their four-month descent into hell. Crammed into a tiny three-room apartment, the love and goodwill that carried them this far dissipates into a cesspool of despair, rage and paranoia. Each utterly bewildered by the other’s madness, things deteriorate so badly that in the end they can only communicate through scribbled post-it notes. He sulks, frets and retreats; she yells, breaks everything in sight and defaces the furniture. One November morning, realizing that they’re trapped in an unsafe situation that can only get worse, he snaps. While she’s at her hospital day program, he collects her belongings in a duffle bag, throws them to the curb and changes the locks, expunging his would-be sweetheart from his home ... and his life.

How does one process, much less get over, such a tragic parting? He—I—chose to bombard it with love in the only way I knew how: heartfelt poetry set to shimmering, beautiful music. Taking the DIY ethos to its ultimate conclusion, I wrote, played and produced everything while doubling as recording engineer at The Grinning Zone. Recorded over a three-year period, the album represents a departure from my previous work with Sour Landslide and The Benvereens. While still rooted in classic rock and my trademark melodicism, these songs find me exploring a mellow, more organic sound with predominantly acoustic instrumentation. That said, this is not a sparse folk record. Much of the material has been given the full-band treatment (bass, drums, guitars, keyboards and percussion) along with such exotica as dulcimer, mandolin and recorder. Spanning the full spectrum of folk-rock with delicate ballads, crunching power pop, foot-stomping bluegrass, Byrdsian jangle and medieval Brit-folk, Linden Tree near the Water shows, in spectacular and sonorous fashion, that life’s messiest muck can be transformed into pearls.

Here are some endorsements the record has received so far. Preview clips of all 12 songs are featured below, and the album can be streamed in full on my SoundCloud page. To purchase Linden Tree near the Water in physical or digital form, please visit my online store. Thanks for listening!

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  1. 1 Next of Kindred 02:32 Info
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  2. 2 Cabbagetown Princess in Parkdale Clothes 03:28 Info
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  3. 3 That '70s Lifetime 04:25 Info
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  4. 4 This Magnificent Dare 04:33 Info
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  5. 5 Groping to Victory 03:03 Info
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  6. 6 Nest for Little Bird 04:28 Info
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  7. 7 After You 04:43 Info
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  8. 8 Year of No Tomorrow 03:41 Info
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  9. 9 Christmas with Bruce and Bob 04:37 Info
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  10. 10 Lady Air 03:51 Info
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  11. 11 Le chevalier manqué 02:18 Info
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  12. 12 Linden Tree near the Water 04:41 Info Free
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linden tree outtakes

As sometimes happens when crafting a record, after all was said and done I ended up with a few too many contenders and had to whittle away in order to arrive at the final song sequence. The Linden Tree near the Water sessions produced three outtakes. The first two are presented here and are free to stream or download. As for the elusive third song, simply join Nearer the Water, my insiders' community, and you'll get it for free as well.

micro-tour highlights

In order to get myself out there a bit more and reduce my stage fright, I recently embarked on what I call a micro-tour of Toronto's open stages. The goal was to play to as many people as possible in a concentrated time frame, with the bonus of eating in my own home and sleeping in my own bed: all the perks of real touring with none of the hassles!

So, over a five-week period in May/June, I played 17 open stages, all without repeating a song, and I'm delighted to share the highlights with you. It's all free to stream or download. The songs are written by me unless otherwise stated (click on "INFO" for song and venue information). Oh, and while you listen, why not head over to my blog for the inside scoop behind the songs, shows and venues? (See "Notes from the Road," Part 1 and Part 2.)

cd release highlights

On November 4, 2017 at Trinity-St. Paul's Centre in Toronto, I had the pleasure of launching my album with a 30-song extravaganza on guitar, dulcimer, mandolin and harmonica.

In addition to the Linden Tree material, I showcased a few new songs and a choice selection of my favourite cover tunes. For those of you who couldn't be there, I'm thrilled to present video highlights from the show.

For bonus audio material from the evening's performance, I invite you to head over to my SoundCloud page. Enjoy!

ready to go (the benvereens)

From 2010 to 2012, I had the privilege of gigging and recording with my brother and sister-in-law in their alt-country outfit, The Benvereens. I did fine with the alt part, but the country was somewhat of a reach—I recall telling a friend that in short order, I had to learn how to turn the treble way down on my Fender bass, then do my best Rick Danko impersonation! But I had a blast. We recorded Ready to Go in late 2011 at Escarpment Sound, a rustic studio out Milton way, and I'm pleased to present my two contributions here, free for you to stream and download. (You might recognize one of these.) If you'd like to purchase the album, contact me; I still have a few copies. It's also available on CD Baby.

Photographs by Carol Witwicky. Instrument illustrations and GZ logo © 2017 Grinning Zone Studios.
Album and lyrics page artwork © 2017 Gabriel Altrows. Web design by Vern Nicholson.
Sour Landslide and Benvereens archival footage courtesy Neil Whitlock.
All pages and contents © 2017-2018 Vern Nicholson.