This year, Canadian duo Whitehorse released the under-the-radar but sublime album Leave No Bridge Unburned. It’s a captivating collection of country, rock and even film noir influences that all combine for an entirely fresh listen. Recently, the group made up of Melissa McClelland and guitar hero Luke Doucet concluded a Canadian tour with singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen and his sister Abby Gundersen. During a stop in Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, the foursome filmed an inspired performance of Neil Young’s “Helpless,” from the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu.
Setting up shop in Village Guitar & Amp Co., a local guitar store, the four musicians channeled the Canadian hero Young, beginning the song with a mournful intro from Abby’s violin before Noah takes the opening verse. Soon, Doucet and McClelland join in on harmonies, making for a haunting rendition of one of folk-rock’s most evocative songs.
“We’d been playing shows for a couple of weeks and we wanted to find something to film together, both to commemorate our short Canadian prairie tour and also just to see what kind of chemistry might emerge between the four of us. ‘Helpless’ was something that seemed to fit the Canadian prairie theme,” says Doucet.
Filmed prior to that night’s gig across the South Saskatchewan River, the players only performed “Helpless” one more time on the northern tour, the following day in Winnipeg. In his youth, Doucet briefly attended high school there — the same one, it turns out, that Young had attended. Later, Doucet would have an odd encounter with the ornery singer-songwriter.
“I once asked him about a rumor that he’d ridden a horse through the hallways of Kelvin High School,” says Doucet. “He looked at me in mild disgust and quipped: ‘How would I get it in there?’ and walked away.”
Whitehorse will launch a U.S. tour on May 17th in Philadelphia, while Gundersen, who will release his new album Carry the Ghost in August, is set to play the Sloss Fest in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 18th.