When Gord Sinclair got together last fall with the musicians featured on his solo album, they decided to turn back the clock to a time when the bassist was first starting out with the Tragically Hip.
A new version of "Get Back Again," an unreleased Hip bootleg classic written by Sinclair more than 30 years ago, was the result.
Sinclair, who recently released the new recording as a single for charity, said the song has "never been more applicable" given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We will get back again to some kind of normal and we will endure with a little bit of faith," he said. "That's really what the song is about. That's why it's seeing the light of day now."
The melodic acoustic ballad was written in the late 1980s, but never made it onto an album. The Hip played it live on occasion when the band was working the club scene in its early days.
"We were transitioning from being a cover band to an original band," Sinclair said from Kingston, Ont. "And we really needed material and we were each kind of writing songs to try to get into the set."
The Tragically Hip's first full-length album, "Up to Here," was released in 1989. "Get Back Again" did not make it on that record but the tune was included in some setlists as the band toured.
The Hip went on to become one of the biggest bands in the country. Singer Gord Downie's terminal cancer diagnosis became public in 2016 and the band capped its final tour with a show in Kingston that summer. Downie died a year later.
Sinclair's version of "Get Back Again" still has that distinct campfire feel to it, with its measured strumming like a cousin to Up to Here's "38 Years Old" or "Wheat Kings" from the 1992 release "Fully Completely."
"We were on a good roll and we had started to jam a lot more and started to really give the sets our own kind of flavour," Sinclair said. "We were becoming our own band and we needed material. And so I guess by necessity, I started to do a lot more writing. That's where that song came from."
At its simplest level, Sinclair explained, it's a "Boy meets girl, boy (messes) it up" kind of song.
But digging deeper, there's a notion of a Biblical story, he added, with the idea that over time the qualities of Abel will endure instead of the qualities of Cain.
"You can give in to the panic of the moment and let it overcome you or you can trust that goodness will endure and that we will get back again," Sinclair said. "And that is basically what the song is all about.
"That our better selves will win out in the end."
After recording his solo album "Taxi Dancers," Sinclair returned to the Bathouse studio near Kingston last November to capture some pictures and video of his solo bandmates in session.
"The idea was, let's pick a song and record it, shoot ourselves doing it and we'll use that," he said.
One of the musicians suggested "Get Back Again" and the rest of the band was on board. Sinclair provided lead vocals and the cameras rolled.
Sinclair, whose solo album was released in February, said proceeds from the single will benefit the local food bank in Kingston and the Unison Benevolent Fund, which provides counselling and relief services to the Canadian music community.
"This is a song that really only existed in kind of really raw live recordings available on the internet and yet it has a resonance with people," Sinclair said. "It's quite astounding to me. It was a very innocent attempt at songwriting by a very young me.
"But it's cool. It's cool that way."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press