The top is a book-worthy story itself. It was cut
from a 300-year-old tree known as the Golden
Spruce that was sacred to the Haida, the FN
community of the Queen Charlotte Islands, off
the west coast of British Columbia. The Golden
Spruce was at the heart of a conflict between
native land rights and the interests of industry
and government. One night in January of 1997,
a logging scout named Grant Hadwin decided
to end the dispute by cutting the tree down.
The Haida called it their version of a drive-by
shooting, and swore to let the tree return to
nature. However, when they heard about Taylor’s
project, they felt that putting a piece of the
Golden Spruce into this instrument would ease
their sorrow over the loss. It took a long time to
work out the details, and the weather was less
than cooperative, but a Haida woodcarver was
finally able to acquire a piece suitable for the
top, and it was taken to Rizsanyi’s workshop.
Since then, the rest of the tree has decayed and
returned to nature, as the Haida had hoped.
It took ten years to plan and gather materials,
but once the actual construction process began,
the guitar was completed in about six weeks,
just in time for the opening ceremony of Canada
Day 2006. Guitarist and songwriter Stephen
Fearing did the musical honors, playing an
unforgettable version of his song “The Longest
Road,” which Taylor had wished to be the first
piece performed on the guitar back when the
process was barely begun.
One of the primary considerations for the instrument was playability. Taylor and Riszanyi both
wanted Voyageur to be playable by anyone,
from well-calloused veterans to soft-fingered
beginners. It sports many features common to
high-end boutique guitars, such as a seven-piece
neck, hand-scalloped bracing, wood bindings,
and spectacular custom inlays. Nicely equipped
with an L.R. Baggs iMix pickup system, its powerful voice has been heard all across Canada, in
Some remarkable music has been played on
it by some of Canada’s premier artists, including Stephen Fearing, Leslie Feist, Don Ross,
Colin Linden, Kevin Breit, and Doug Cox, many
of whom have performed concerts, festivals,
radio broadcasts and fundraisers with Voyageur.
Taylor and photographer Doug Nicholson have,
according to Taylor, “two giant hard drives full
of photographs” of portraits and performances
from the past couple of years on the road.
Not only is Voyageur made of stories, it’s now
creating them. “One of my favorite moments
ever with this guitar,” says Taylor, “was at a
little pizza restaurant in Guelph [Ontario] called
Manhattan’s. University of Guelph professor and
guitar enthusiast Doug Larson pulled together a
fundraiser for the project and invited twenty-five
musicians each to do a song on the guitar. The
last player on the bill was Kevin Breit. The amazing thing about Kevin is that he doesn’t dazzle
you or play super fast or try to impress you with
his pointy solos... but he played this piece and
there’s one note he puts in, one note, and the
entire room goes, ‘Ahhh!’ It was pure musicality,
and to me that was...” Taylor paused, searching for just the right words. “There have been a
gazillion-and-one special moments with this guitar, but there’s this guy who is so accomplished,
so generous and so gentle and he slays people
with a single note. That just stops you dead in
To purchase the book or get more information
about Voyageur, visit sixstringnation.com.
Click here to see a photo gallery of
Stephen Fearing and Jowi Taylor present Voyageur to the country on Canada Day 2006.
Voyageur’s tilted maple leaf pickguard, made of small pieces of
Canada’s rich history.