Dirty Words & Thoughts About Music - II

by Brian Wright-McLeod 2007
News From Indian Country

Derek Miller: The Dirty Looks

[Arbor 2006]

The long-awaited follow-up album to Derek Miller’s Juno Award-winning Love Is The Medicine has arrived courtesy of some long soul-searching by the artist and some sobering realizations that life is short. Musically, Miller utilizes the power chord with an unbridled energy with the dexterity of a samurai swordsman. The trio is rounded out with Ken Hoover, bass, and Dale Harrison, drums. Stand up tracks include “Devil Come Down Sunday” twisted with a slasher-guitar ode to the “Rumble Man” Link Wray (Shawnee).
His roster of influences including Wray, are apparent are tinges of Hank Williams, Howlin’ Wolf and Chris Whitley. The energy of “Throw the Hammer Down,” “Shot O’ Cocaine” and the Sam Philips classic “Mystery Train” veer on classic rock mixed with a punk induced southern rock/blues energy. The songs from the soft side of Derek such as “Ooh La La” are somewhat of a murmur, but he has matured in his approach to this sort of material. All in all, the album was worth the wait. Get it. Got it? Good






Shane Yellowbird: Life is Calling My Name

[Independent 2006]

Native America has a full-blood Cree Native country music star rising in western Canada.

web-shaneyellowbird.gif From the Hobema Reserve in Alberta, Yellowbird realized a career when in 2005 the single release of “Beautiful Concept” created a national buzz. The album’s radio singles “Life Is Calling My Name” and “They’re All About You” enjoy national radio and television rotation. Additionally, “Pick-up Truck” was recently named Number One Video by Canada’s country music network CMT. Born with a speech impediment, his therapist told him to hum his sentences in order to help him communicate clearly, by age 21 Shane was singing up a storm. With the help of O’Reilly International Entertainment Management (306 Records), his music caught the ear of country music fans across Canada and generated several appearances on CMT and other music networks.

Reigning in classic and new country sounds that combine captivating lyrics, singable melodies and catchy riffs, he’s managed to create a winning formula that continues to attract a growing fan base. His image of a seasoned rodeo rider is not a fabrication, Yellowbird continues to break horses and compete in calf-roping competitions at rodeos across North America. Given all of this, Life Is Calling My Name is the seminal Yellowbird album that deserves the ear of every country music fan.





The Blue Stone Project:

Blue Stone [Canyon Records 2006]

web-bluestone.gif The fourteen-track album features the swamp-rock ballad “John Doe” – a page torn from Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” in style, melody and instrumentation. Much of the music remains in the country/folk form with the flute tracks courtesy of Aaron White (Burning Sky) that produces a unique character for the music. Overall, the compositions maintain an intensity that allows the audience to appreciate the subtleties and lyrical form.

The album received seven Native American Music Awards in 2006. Despite the accolades, the album is one that I would revisit on rare occasions and probably not all the way through from beginning to end either. With such adept and talented musicians involved in this venture, the material is the weak link. With stronger songs that don’t try to cash in on the “Indian” imagery to the point of overkill like so many other Native bands, I think Blue Stone Project could go much further while fostering new fans along the way.



Art Napoleon: Miyoskamin (Traveling Sun)

[Independent 2006]

Napoleon delivers his music with a true blues/folk passion that contains a Fred Eaglesmith/Steve Earle flavor. Art Napoleon’s raw rhythmic style stands alone in the northern woods. Performed in English and Cree, the songs convey a deep sense of artistry and understanding of his music that renders the album completely accessible for anyone looking for new Native music with soul. In addition to filling his role as chief of his community in the Treaty 8 area, Napoleon is an accomplished musician who has made several concert and television appearances across the country where his songwriting, guitar and harmonica playing gain serious attention. For folk/blues music northern at its best, check out Art Napoleon online at www.artnapoleon.com



Shelley Morningsong: Out of the Ashes [Silver Wave 2006]

shelleymorningsong.jpg Morningsong (Cheyenne) is new to the scene as a solo Native artist with some very melodic songs embellished with the trappings of Native American iconography. Much of her material is immersed in the cultural landscape of idealized Native music that conveys the message of culture.

From a family with a long musical history in the rock idiom (her father was a guitarist/singer in various bands in the 1960s and ‘70s) Morningsong brings a tempered sense to her songwriting. While not the best selection of believable material, she does possess an adept talent gained from stints with Juice Newton, Robert Mirabal and Charlie Daniels. Not the absolute pick of the litter, Out of The Ashes deserves a listen.



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Various: Star Blanket

(the Soundtrack) [SOAR 2006]

The companion disc to the equally compelling documentary on Canadian chief Noel Star Blanket (Star Blanket: A Spirit Journey by Cindi and Andy Pickard), presents a selection of artists who provide the score for the film. Artists include Brule, Doug Courchesne, Chester Knight & the Wind, XIT, and others. While the documentary is an update of Star Blanket’s current situation, it also reflects on his past achievements as a force to be reckoned with on the Canadian political landscape. Another background film that may augment this current release is the National Film Board of Canada’s compelling documentary on the man.





Whitefish Jrs.: On The Trail [Sweet Grass 2005] 2-CD

One of the premier round dance groups to emerge from Canada’s prairies, White Fish Jrs., continues to deliver some of the best songs of the genre. The group also performed on the live telecast of the 2005 Juno Awards (Canada’s Grammies) with recording sensation Nellie Furtado. It is an outstanding testament to the group’s creativity to release a double CD of various songs, in fact an album that should be listened to widely and appreciated for its artistic value.



Various: Honoring the People: Men’s Fancy [Turtle Island Music 2006]

An album of upbeat songs for the powwow trail features some of the top groups from the Canadian prairies including Elk’s Whistle, High Noon, Sweet Grass, Blacklodge, Black Stone, Eyabay, Little Island Cree and others. The live recording captures the sounds and spirit of today’s powwow on this twenty-one-song CD that will make a great addition to anyone’s powwow collection.


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