Monday, June 18, 2018

22/43




















"Half the world away" or almost half of my life away. Any which way, this was me at 22, a little-big-skinny-tall drummer boy, an Oasis fan (well, I leaned towards Blur a bit more, I think), a gin and beer drinker (not in the same drink, silly), sometime amphetamine taker (or was it antihistamine?), where ecstasy filled the air at the club(s) where smokes were smoked and we danced forever and held each other tight. Hey, does this transport card still work?

London and Tokyo (Konnichiwa, Ichiro!) were my personal meccas during this era (has anything changed? Well, yes, slightly...) and I took my first trip to England during the same week as the Gallagher brother's biggest gigs to date in the summer of '96, two days at Knebworth where over 2 million people applied for 250,000 available tickets. I decided to pass. Was I already over it? I'm listening to "Rockin' Chair" as I type, the emotional b-side of "Roll With It," and it's making me teary eyed, the distance, the innocence, and the naivety, simply seeking out and grooving on the beat and the beats and even some of the better words, wherever they came from: Manchester, New York, Paris, Kingston or Toronto.

I had just started playing records out to the universe (soul, funk, and reggae mostly w/ a little 60s jazz and other assorted mod gear), my dear mother, rest her soul, was still alive, and I worked full-time as a music clerk/buyer at HMV #852 in Coquitlam Centre after graduating from SFU. The store was MASSIVE, with more music than a fully loaded jukebox or a 160 gigabyte iPod Classic. It was our very own Youtube before that even existed (imagine that, eh!?), a library of sound, that is to say, we had almost everything, a bastion of culture in suburbia heaven and hell where the dogs ran wild at night.

I was sick during that first journey across the Atlantic (*More on that later!) and to be totally honest, I could barely understand a word that anyone was saying to me upon my arrival in the UK, from the airport staff commuting from central London to the old Liverpudlian at the chip shop down the road. "Sorry, do you speak English?" It took two more trips in 2000 and 2004 to finally get the swing of it and I feel that I'm ready to be here now once more. This time, there's a bit more of a purpose to the motion, Light in the Attic Records' sweet 16 anniversary festivities, a label that I've helped to shape for over 14 years.

Does anyone actually read liner notes? Well, don't tell LITA! ; ) And please note, my best notes were written for the 2006 re-release of the mighty Noel Ellis (Summer Records, 1983). On this go round, I'm traveling alongside and in support of Willie Thrasher and his singing partner Linda Saddleback and I'm sad and somewhat frustrated to report that certain outlets in the Canadian mass media have ignored my requests to cover this historic event, but trust me friends (yes, we're still friends), THIS IS A BIG F%CKING DEAL!@#$%!!!

Willie, who's been at it for over 50 years and is still rocking harder than yer latest and momentarily greatest buzz band of twenty-somethings w/ crass managers and sly booking agents and flash photographers and stylish stylists and posing press people and a full season of government sponsored festival dates (no diss, we'll see how many of you are still at it at 69, like Willie! Grassroots or not...), a residential school survivor, a Grammy nominee (Native North America represent!), and SO much more... Did I mention that this is Willie's first trip off of Turtle Island, singing his Inuvialuit heartbeat songs with his beloved partner on the doorsteps of the colonizer in one of London's most respectable and professional concert venues?

YES FRIENDS, THIS IS A BIG... F%CKING... DEAL...

So Canada, WAKE UP!!!

And in the meantime, London town, we're coming for YOU!!!

PEACE

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Alanis Obomsawin - Bush Lady LP reissue

As a Canadian citizen and person of settler and immigrant heritage, I feel that it is my responsibility to learn more about the land that I was born on. During my Catholic and public school experiences in the 1970s/80s or even at Simon Fraser University in the early 1990s I was rarely taught about the true history of Canada nor was I conscious enough to seek it out beyond any surface awareness. I'm happy to report that this has changed. In my travels across Canada throughout the first decade of the 2000s,  I began to learn more about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit expression from a selection of hand-picked vintage vinyl records. I will never forget the kindness and generosity of the people who created these recordings, some of the most talented singers, songwriters, poets, artists, writers, and filmmakers that I've ever known. It made me happy to learn that many of these artists were still being celebrated in Native communities across Turtle Island (and beyond), yet for others, music took a back seat to the unfolding of life, as it so often does for independent artists, especially when facing a lack of opportunities to make any sort of sustainable living pursuing their craft or calling. Racism, systematic oppression, and white supremacy also played a part, but we must also remember that not all music is made for or aimed at the charts or social media statistics. Bar some longstanding and outspoken voices like Brian Wright-McLeod (The Encyclopedia of Native Music) who has been giving the necessary thanks and acknowledgements to these artists and their gifts for decades, I was appalled to realize how off-the-grid many of these songs were, though as a professional, non-academic, street level music researcher, writer, DJ, and reissue producer for many years, sadly not surprised.

For example, did you know that Mi'gmaq folk singer Willie Dunn wrote and released a devastating song about Chanie Wenjack called "Charlie" at the turn of the 1970s and was involved in a truly radical feature length film about the residential school system called Cold Journey, over forty years before Gord Downie's much talked about Secret Path project? With all due respect and love to Gord (RIP) for his immense contributions, it was maddening, disappointing, and offensive to see a virtual absence any meaningful recognition for Dunn, who passed on to the spirit world in 2013, during the Secret Path's colonial mass media storm. What gives? Do journalists no longer dig beyond press releases? Did they ever?  In 1971, Dunn released a masterpiece that should be known by every single Canadian living on stolen land. Land where acts of genocide are still being acted out on Indigenous peoples. Land that is being abused by the government for profit. Our media and music business professionals of all backgrounds need to step it up in 2018 and truly earn their keep and make it known. Yes, there will be mistakes along the journey and we all come to music when we do (no judgement there), but it's our responsibility as settlers and immigrants to make the meaningful effort. The bar has been set. We must catch up, now! Listen... Learn... And Share...

Released by Seattle and Los Angeles-based Light In The Attic Records in 2014, Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 was my personal love letter to a selection of trailblazers who affected and continue to affect my life in a positive and meaningful way. The 24 artists and groups featured made me reach beyond my comfort zone, taught me things that I never learned in school, and gave me their blessing to work w/ their monumental creations, an honour that I will carry in my heart and soul for eternity. While preparing for the compilation's release, there was only one artist that we were unfortunately not able to collaborate with, Abenaki singer, songwriter, veteran Nation Film Board of Canada filmmaker, and force of nature, Alanis Obomsawin.  Five years into production and pressure mounting, her musical absence brought me to tears, but for no reason other than I understood the incredible feeling and weight of her poetry and songs as well as her deep connection to longtime friends and peers like Dunn, Shingoose, and Duke Redbird whom she supported over the years as curator of the Indigenous stages at the Mariposa Folk Festival and her work at the NFB. With plans of her own, the timing wasn't right for her involvement. I both understood and appreciated her honesty and integrity.

Needless to say, it was beyond humbling to work with Alanis (and her musical ally, Fred Savard) on the recent Native North America Gathering at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa (as part of the annual MEGAPHONO Festival). It was such an honour to hear her share her musical voice w/ an open and loving audience of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. I was also thrilled to learn that Bush Lady was going to be re-released in its entirety via Montreal's stellar Constellation Records. I can't recommend this album enough...

To celebrate Bush Lady's re-release, I've created a Spotify playlist for my original "vision" version of NNA V1 (designed to be listened to from beginning to end), with Alanis' "Of The Earth And Of The Sea" poem at the top and introspectively winding down with another of her original compositions, "Odana" at the tail, before the spiritual and hypnotic chant/drum/guitar beat of Willie Dunn and Jerry Saddleback's "Peruvian Dream (Part 2)." I still feel that this sequence is the best way to enjoy the album (preferably with friends and family).





I dedicate this playlist to Alanis and to the Indigenous artists who have strengthened their people and have made this world a better place for everyone... Thank you!



























Order Bush Lady HERE

PEACE