Dirty Words & Thoughts About Music - IV

By Brian Wright-McLeod, 2008
News From Indian Country 10-08

Jim Boyd: Blues to Blue Grass [Thunder Wolf]. In another fine outing, Jim Boyd harks to the roots of both blues and bluegrass that inspired the infectious melodies and down-home lyrics on his latest disc. The title track pays homage to the legends of both blues and bluegrass, but this is not a roots music project. Boyd draws from the source to enhance his distinctive vocal style and sublime songwriting. While there are legions of blues bands in Indian Country and elsewhere, Boyd delivers something singular and unique. His band contains the familiar roster of players who have accompanied him on previous albums including singer LaRae Wiley; drummer Alfonso Kolb; Marty Meisner, bass; Brad Greene, keys; Paul Raymond, percussion.



Tracy Bone: No Lies [Arbor]. Manitoba-based singer/songwriter Tracy Bone (Ojibway) derives her inspiration from the music of George Jones, Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline and Faith Hill. More than mere name-dropping, her talent is a sublime blend of those influences that stands on its own merit. The album’s opening track “Standards” may have been an odd choice for the first song given that it’s a yarn of break-up and heartache. Although the song would have fit much better in the middle of the album, her performance cannot be denied. She follows through with the compelling number “Lonely With You” that stands strong as a country love ballad in time. Her songwriting collaboration with fiancé J.C. Campbell culminates in their duet on the album’s title track. No Lies is an album of melodic love ballads delivered by a gifted performer.


Arvel Bird: Animal Totems [independent]. A unique talent, Arvel Bird’s mastery of the fiddle is illuminated with a soulful expressiveness not often encountered in a cultural context. Animal Totems comprises twelve tracks each representing an animal that sets the atmosphere for each composition. Fortunately, Bird avoids employing the cultural stereotypes of musical beads and baubles with dramatic arrangements that rely on bass percussion, flute, guitar, keyboards and strings. A compelling album, Animal Totems is a culturally inspired concept album in as much as it is a showcase of Bird’s accomplished talent.



Jacques & The Shakey Boys: Lines, Bumps & Rails [independent 2006]. In the spirit of country rock injected with hues of Hank Williams III, Jacques and the Shakey Boys brings some hot rhythm to the forefront. “8 Ball Blues,” “God and the Devil” and “Oshawa Blues” are the tightest tracks on an otherwise good album. The band has made impressive inroads at last year’s South By Southwest music festival in Texas and recruited Derek Miller to produce their first album. The original rockabilly songs are penned by Jacques Nadjiwan, the brassy lead singer of the group with guitarist Dave Deleary, former member of Seventh Fire.


Slidin’ Clyde Roullette Band: Let’s Take a Ride [independent 2007]. Slidin’ Clyde Roullette (Ojibway), a former member of the 1970s Canadian Country music chart-toppers C-Weed Band, all but disappeared from the music scene for nearly two decades. His return to the music scene is announced with his first career-solo album of the grinding rhythms and hot riffs of the blues. The opening track “Red Man” is the album’s anthemic number, an ode to Howlin’ Wolf while winging satirically at the cultural clashes from Columbus to Custer. Relying heavily on the blues stereotype, Roullette adds tinges of Country guitar to his superlative playing that adds grit to his vocal delivery. Cover songs include John Sleepy Estes’ “Goin’ to Brownsville,” Albert King’s “Natural Ball,” Joe Vasey’s “Further on up the Road” and Earl Forest’s “Wall to Wall.”  Roullette, on vocal and guitar; Mel Reimer, harmonica; Jeff Smook, acoustic and bass guitar; Ken McMahon, drums.


Gabriel Ayala: Tango [independent 2007] and Portraits [Canyon]. Keep your ear turned to Gabriel Ayala (Yaqui), an emerging classical Spanish guitarist of growing renown. His repertoire on his latest album, Tango, includes nine compositions by notable masters such as the great Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), Gerardo Matos Rodriguez (1897-1948) and others. Ayala executes his performance with exact precision peppered with passion and artistry.

Ayala’s latest release called Portraits, released on Canyon Records, is a circumspect excursion into the classical guitar form. Combining precision with demanding material, Ayala has evoked a creative spirit. Performing compositions by Erik Satie, Peter Maxwell Davies, J.S. Bach and Mozart, Portraits is a sweeping montage created by an artist with a deep sense of sensitivity for his medium.

A music teacher for elementary and post secondary levels, Ayala also promotes Native culture through traditional singing and dancing. His self-titled debut 2003 CD was nominated for the Native American Music Awards’ Best Independent Recording.



X-Status CD/DVD set [Strong Front]. From Winnipeg, Manitoba, X-Status brandishes hot metal that slashes the air with magnetic electricity. Son of veteran blues artist Billy Joe Green (Anishnabe), Jesse Green has created a dominating sound that is seasoned with years of experience. Rising from the ashes of his previous group Killa Green, the reincarnation as X-Status holds promise of heavier things to come. The opening track immediately sets the stage for a group that is firmly in control of their epic sound. The album’s eight solid tracks of ballistics performed with viciously relentless rhythms, hammering lead strokes and throaty vocals spitting out culturally relevant lyrics that echoes with the doom and darkness of true heavy metal.

The DVD employs many angular and split screen shots of the band playing at the Pyramid Cabaret, Winnipeg, Manitoba, but with clear audio. Combining two singles and two half-hour sets, the DVD is a full-length, non-stop barrage of hard-core metal. The only suggestion here: Jesse needs to acquire the appropriate wardrobe for the genre. I was left wondering if he just returned from the golf course in time to shoot the video segments. Aside from the short-comings, X-Status remains ambitious, talented and formidable. The crew consists of Natshia Moodie, lead vocals; Jesse Green, lead guitar/vocals; Mike Bruyere (Eagle & Hawk), drums/vocals; Dave Beach, drums/vocals; Rikki Lee Green, bass; Dustin Moore, rhythm guitar. X-Status must stand and be recognized.




Santee: Legacy [SOAR]. Steeped in cultural pageantry, the album plays like a soundtrack but definitely finds a place in the growing number of instrumental recordings that pay homage to Native culture and ancestor relationship. Many of the tracks or moody renditions that require a keen ear to conjure the fluidity found on this project.

Produced by Robby Bee, the album features the traditional singing of Cornel Pewewardy, Common Man Singers, Earl Bullhead, Jack Anquoe and Comanche with spoken word segments by Gabriel Medicine Eagle.