Mother Love is a fully-realized narrative reflection on cultural reclamation, adversity, and self-reflection.
Fulfilling the promise and expectations of their earlier EPs and singles, iskwē and Tom Wilson’s first full-length collaboration, Mother Love, is a poignant reflection on the nature of love, culture, and self-reflection and a showcase for two prominent artists working at the forefront of the Indigenous music scene. At first, iskwē and Wilson might seem like an odd pairing, but after performing together for the first time at the 2020 Indspire Awards alongside Chuck Copenace, it seemed like a natural fit for the duo to set down their version of “Blue Moon Drive” (initially written by Wilson and released on Lee Harvey Osmond’s 2015 album Beautiful Scars) and set off on the journey that would eventually lead to Mother Love.
Fittingly, “Blue Moon Drive” opens the record and sets the tone for the duration of the remaining seven songs — themes of travel, getting lost, and returning to those you love most at both the spiritual and physical levels. To listen to the entire album is to immerse yourself in a story of reclamation in the face of adversity and the development of self-knowledge against immeasurable odds.
There is something so compellingly symmetrical in the ordering of the tracks, confirming that all the preceding EPs were mere glimpses into the fully ordered narrative of Mother Love. The album’s title track repeats the refrain “Come back home,” and the middle verse, delivered by iskwē, links the healing power of a mother’s love and knowledge after the isolation from one’s heritage to recovery from drug addiction: “Mother love / My methadone / Can you hear / This heart of stone / You came late / But you left me clean.”
“Stir The Ashes” represents the beginning of a healing journey. Its chorus declares, “Spirit will come and take us dancing / in the medicine / this love is magic,” while its conclusion suggests, “Watch the way I chance / I promise you I’ll change.” This process is personal for Wilson; he has been connecting to his Mohawk roots and community after learning of his childhood adoption in his mid-50s. The story is beautifully related to his 2017 memoir, Beautiful Scars, and the 2018 Lee Harvey Osmond track “Mohawk.”
The record includes several previously released tracks, including “Coal Mine” and the duo’s version of the Misha Bower-penned tune, “Starless Nights.” The recognition that gold cannot be found in a coal mine shifts into the realization that freedom can be found in loneliness. At the same time, the “Shadow of another love” leads one fearlessly into future comforts and acceptance.
Several tracks on the album were produced by Serena Ryder, including “Long Way Down,” a forceful track that rides a deep groove through the middle of the album with its stark imagery of a child helping a struggling parent. The final song, “Dream You Home,” is riddled with pop culture references, seeking the combined wisdom of the man on the moon and Andy Kaufman to help dream the singer’s object of affection back to a safe haven.
For two artists embarking on their first full collaboration together, iskwē and Wilson’s pairing on Mother Love feels both inspired and easy. Like two souls who instantly understand one another, their chemistry and creative energy comes through in a way that uplifts and celebrates their individual contributions. This may not have been the road either had planned to take prior to their meeting, but like the best road trips, Mother Love is a journey made better because of its travelling companions.
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