Crown Lands
‘End of the Road’
Universal Music Canada

Crown Lands are a hard rocking duo from Southwestern Ontario comprised of Kevin Comeau (guitars, bass, synth) and Cody Bowles (vocals, drums).  They draw upon Bowles’ indigenous heritage, of the Mi’kmaq Nation in Nova Scotia, and their name is a wicked little joke.  Crown lands, in Canada, are lands owned by the Crown in Right of Canada, in other words, public lands owned by the government.  Much of the Crown land of Canada are land taken from the indigenous, whether by force or by unfair and enforced treaty.  And Bowles says, ‘Crown land is stolen land, and we’re taking it back.’

‘End of the Road’ is the début single from their first album, Crown Lands, which is due to be released 13 August by Universal Music Canada.  It was recorded down in Nashville, with Dave Cobb producing.  Cobb is a 6-time Grammy Award winner and has worked with some of my favourites, including Rival Sons, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and John Prine.  After listening to ‘End of the Road’ a few times, I’m really stoked for that long player.

‘End of the Road’ is about the Highway of Tears, the Yellowhead Highway 16 in British Columbia, a 600km stretch from Prince George to Prince Rupert in the north of the province. Since 1969, upwards of 40 indigenous women have gone missing and are presumed murdered along this stretch of highway.  The Highway of Tears is not the only place from which indigenous women have been snatched, raped, and murdered, of course, but the worst thing is, due to series of calamitous issues and indifference and racism on the part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other police forces across the country, ‘”reliable estimate of the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA persons in Canada,’ according to Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, an official government inquiry into what is referred to MMIW in Canada.  The report was issued in June 2019.  And even at that, we do know that in the 21st century, the homicide rate for indigenous women, girls, and two-spirits was six times higher than the national average.

This is an issue that I feel personally, as one of my babysitters when I was a child, Darlene, is one of the missing or murdered women, girls, and two-spirits.  She disappeared sometime in the late 80s.

The visual for the song, above, is stunning.  It is an all-indigenous production, featuring a narration from the Inuk singer/artist Tanya Taqaq, and the video itself was co-produced by Sage Nokomious Wright, co-directed by Tim Myles and Alex P. Smith.  The dancers, Teieneisha Richards, Kennedy Bomberry, Katie Couchie, and Nishina Loft Dana Jeffrey, choreographed by Richards, are all indigenous as well.  The visual sees the women, in red, dancing on the Highway of Tear; it is a devastatingly powerful image, one that will stick with me for some time.

As for the song, it, too, tackles the issue, centred around a hard-rocking song, dominated by Bowles’ screeching vocals.  Their lyrics are, like the visuals, powerful:

Stolen sisters in the night
Return to the ground below
Then lightning strikes
And thunder shakes her soul

This is an insanely powerful song, to say nothing of the visuals, and I am super-stoked for the album next month.