When Tom Wilson created the moniker Lee Harvey Osmond he wasn’t entirely certain if this was a new stage name or merely a provocative handle for the musician/artist collective assembled by producer Michael Timmins to record a collection of Tom Wilson songs that would become A Quiet Evil. This was the first of four albums bearing the featured artist Lee Harvey Osmond. The Folk Sinner was next, followed by the break through Beautiful Scars. It was during this time between releasing Beautiful Scars and recording Kings and Kings with Blackie and The Rodeo Kings that Wilson went public with his recent discovery. He was not exactly the person he thought he was.
In his 50s, Wilson learned that the parents who raised him were not his birth parents; that, in fact, he was adopted and that his biological mother was a long time family friend from the Kahnawake reserve, just outside of Montreal. Grappling with this newfound sense of himself plunged Wilson into a quest for his heritage and his truth, and led to the writing of his bestselling autobiography, Beautiful Scars (Doubleday Canada). The book is a colourful and truthful tale of this quest, and his life’s tribulations and successes along the path.
“It is a story of finding your way home,” he says. “It’s a story of adoption, of growing up thinking you’re a big, sweaty, Irish guy, and finding out at the age of 53 that you’re a Mohawk.”
The discovery of his true heritage and the culture that it carries now informs all of his art. On this fourth Lee Harvey Osmond album, Mohawk, due out January 25 via Latent Recordings, Wilson continues down the path of his “long way home, ”Wilson says. “It is my way of showing honour and respect to a culture that I’m just shaking hands with. My truth was hidden from me – I was born a Mohawk baby, and finally I’m becoming a Mohawk man,” a line he sings on the LP’s first single, “Mohawk”, available to stream today.
Under the steady hand of producer Michael Timmins, the musician collective Lee Harvey Osmond revives the origins of ‘Acid Folk’ with appearances from old friends Ray Farrugia (percussion), Aaron Goldstein (steel guitar), Jesse O’Brien (keyboards) and introduces Anna Reddick (bass). The expanded use of Darcy Hepner’s brass and baritone sax and brilliant harmonica flashes from blues veteran Paul Reddick and Wilson’s son, Thompson Wilson, sound as guideposts behind the moody grooves of Wilson’s literary recital. Suzie Ungerleider (Oh Susanna) provides the perfect backing vocal ingredient for Wilson’s baritone.
Wilson’s life has been an ongoing quest so it is perhaps inevitable that after decades immersed in poetry, literature and music he would turn attention to visual art, a language that transcends the verbal and the written. The packaging and visual elements of Mohawk incorporate Tom Wilson creations. In particular a painting of the same name from his collection Beautiful Scars: Mohawk Warriors, Hunter and Chiefs
He is still driven to ask questions, to seek meaning from the elusive mysteries hidden beneath the surface of everyday existence, to come to terms with his history, his identity; to aspire to higher truths and to understand his place in the world. “If I have 20 more years on this planet, I hope to keep becoming a Mohawk, because I can’t become a Mohawk the way my brothers and sisters and ancestors did.”
02 Forty Light Years
04 Kingdom Come
05 Whole Damn World
08 Burn Of Love
09 A Common Disaster
10 What I Loved About You