Renegade Radio’s Music News & Reviews

By Brian Wright-McLeod
News From Indian Country

Native North America Volume 1: Various Historic Native Artists of the 1960s to the 1980s

[Light in the Attic Records]

Nostalgia, historical importance, artistic excellence, a love of Native roots music or a thirst for vinyl might be some descriptions to identify a hefty new project released by Light in the Attic Records. Produced by Kevin Howes with assistance from VIN Archives, the two-CD collection, also available on vinyl, offers a glimpse into the contemporary music history of northern Canada.

It’s a unique project that has gained a lot of attention, especially within a young demographic that enjoys the vinyl revival and the genres and eras of specific music types. Moreover, this collection and the growing interest represents a real hunger for Native roots music from a time when the social activity was more direct and intimate, when social media did not exist and when recording methods were very different.

The selections focus prominently on folk/rock, country rock and the British pop influences that appealed to many songwriters from northern and western Canada and Quebec.

In all, there are 34 tracks representing 24 artists which feature Willie Dunn (three tracks), John Angaiak (two tracks), Sugluk (three tracks), Sikumiut (two tracks), Willie Thrasher (two tracks), Willy Mitchell and the Desert River Band (three tracks), Lloyd Cheechoo (two tracks), Alexis Utatnaq, Brian Davey (AKA Brian Black Thunder), The Chieftones Canada’s All-Indian Band (who later became Billy Thundercloud and the Chieftones), Lawrence Martin (AKA Wapistan), Gordon Dick, William Tagoona, Morley Loon, Peter Frank, Ernest Monias, Eric Landry, David Campbell, Shingoose (with Duke Redbird), Leland Bell, Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys, Phillippe McKenzie, and Groupe Folklorique Montagnais.

The bulk of the source material was derived from the Boot/CBC Northern Service, the northern arm of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that specialized in northern artists who were recorded and distributed for radio broadcast in those areas during that time. Other sources were derived from smaller independent labels long since gone by way of the do-do bird.

With extensive liner notes that provide in-depth career biographies along with reproductions of original photographs and album cover art from the original recordings, provides almost a sensory presentation. The vinyl issue comprising three albums, includes full size reproductions of some of the side covers in the packaging.

Considering the amount of disc space on a collection of this magnitude, other influential and historically important artists could have made the grade including The Mighty Mohawks, Harry Rusk, Charlie Panagoniak, David and Dorothy Aglukark, Ray St. Germain or Lee Cremo the iconic fiddle player from the east coast, a geographical area overlooked in the collection.

Moreover, the prominent women who were active at the time are noticeably absent – artists such as Buffy Sainte-Marie, Alanis Obomsawin, Laura Vinson, Lucille Starr, Mary Thompson or Shin Van Every, to name a few.

No matter the shortcomings, there are very rare and mightily obscure artists who made important inroads for Native music. Native North America Volume 1 offers a slice of insight into an era of and a musical movement that was a hot bed of activity.  It’s worth the journey.

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