Renegade Radio's Dirty Words & Thoughts About Music

By Brian Wright-McLeod
News From Indian Country 8-09

Music News:

Congratulations to Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree) for her much anticipated cakewalk win of the Aboriginal Recording of the Year at the 2009 Juno Awards (Canada’s Grammy) held in Vancouver, British Columbia. Kudos go out to Toronto-based recording artist Marc Nadjiwan (Anishnabe) who was nominated for the Dora Award in Best Sound/Original Composition for his work on the play Agokwe (Two Spirit).

The production, written by and starred Waawaate Fobister (Anishnabe) and directed by Edward Roy, also garnered nominations in several other categories. 

The Dora Mavor Moore Award (also known as the Dora Award) is presented annually by the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts honouring Canadian theatre, dance and opera. Additionally, Nadjiwan’s latest album, Philosophy For The Masses is up for Best Rock Album and “Close My Eyes” for Best Single at the 2009 Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards.

On The Net:

sierra_noble.jpgSierra Noble released her video “Possibilities” directed by Jeth Weinrich. Filmed in Palmdale, California, the single is currently airing on the CMT network in Canada. A photo shoot ensued with top fashion photographer Raphael Mazzucco, who happens to be best buds with Weinrich, and immediately fell in love with Noble’s music. Mazzucco hopped on board with his internationally renowned shutterbug talents to shoot the artwork for the forthcoming album. “The meeting opened a whole new world for me,” Noble said. She will, however, continue to explore her singer/songwriter side and revealed that, “it’s impossible to move away from the Metis fiddle, it’s a part of who I am.” On Saturday, July 11, she opened for Sir Paul McCartney in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

CD Reviews:

billy_green.jpgBilly Joe Green: First Law of the Land: If Broken, Return to Sender

Perhaps one of the most underrated veteran performers in the blues genre Billy Joe Green (Anishnabe) continues to deliver fresh and powerful work. His latest album enlists all of his talent and experience adding to his long recording history. First Law of the Land is a riveting bolt of blues lightning produced by Canadian blues veteran Paul James. Green’s style, matched only by his notoriety, commands a presence that defines him a singular talent with a distinct energy, originality and style.

Immediately captivating, the album opens with a swaggering number featuring guest guitarist Stevie Salas, who rips the air with his signature high-octane licks. Additional backup musicians include Sierra Noble who adds her fiddle and bow throughout the album as guest vocalist Sam Cockrell appears on “I’ll Love Ya (All My Life).”

Green’s suave vocals punctuate the message in every song with an alluring pedestrian cadence. Most of the material is derived from Green’s personal life or impressions of traditional culture based on continuing injustices that are conveyed through his smooth guitar style.

While the blues genre is bursting at the seams with an astounding number of seasoned artists, Green stands apart with an honest and hard-hitting sound. First Law of the Land represents the gritty side of the “reservation blues” school.

A companion 110-minute DVD features activist/speaker Wapo Piesew (Anishnabe) of the Rocky Mountain Tribes. Filmed by Jesse Green (X-Status), the monologue presents Piesew’s views on Native rights and history from an indigenous perspective.

Keep an ear out for Green’s guest guitar appearance on the forthcoming album by Winnipeg-based rapper Wab Kinew (Anishnabe).

On The Net:

Robby Romero:
Painting the World

[Eagle Thunder 2008] EP

Native Children Surviva

[Eagle Thunder 2004]

America’s Last Frontier

[Eagle Thunder 2003]

robbieromeroredlakeweb.gifThrough a series of albums on a running theme, Robbie Romero (Red Thunder) tackles some commendable causes that strike at the heart of our communities from children’s rights and a common future among all peoples. Marbled with messages in his lyrics and a hook in his melodies and enlisting previously released songs from at least a decade ago, both albums offer a serious view of the state of the Earth through a melodic lens.

Native Children’s Survival (If Not Now, When? If Not You, Who?) comes with a companion DVD featuring a rockumentary containing “America’s Last Frontier,” a remake of the 1994 single “Makoce Wakan” presenting speaker/activist Richard Moves Camp (Lakota), and “Hidden Medicine” with Oren Lyons (Onandoga). Other items include news briefs, music videos and PSAs supporting Native cultural survival and environmental health. The album comprises eighteen tracks of Red Thunder music including “Heart Beat” and “Prayer Song” [Red Thunder 1995], interspersed with short traditional tracks and spoken word segments.

The second album America’s Last Frontier is a musical plea to save the Arctic refuge area from oil and resource extraction in Alaska. The album opens with a spoken word introduction that leads into the album’s single “Who’s Gonna Save You?” Rendered as a live concert performance, the tracks are interspersed with excerpts from prominent political and indigenous voices. Under the banner of The Thunderstorm Tour (A Musical Movement) the project was recorded live in Alaska and Washington, DC. The unmistakable Red Thunder sound possesses new musical twists with additional performers including vocalist Dakota Rene (Taos Pueblo) who sings solo on “My Mistake.” Romero has harnessed capably talented artists who perform melodic compositions that herald a save-the-Earth philosophy in a timely manner.

Finally, the latest three-track EP, Painting the World, features the title track along with “Who’s Gonna Save You?” and the rhythmically poppy “All Our Colors.” The latter plays like a Native rendition of “We Are the World” enhanced with traditional drumming, Andean pan pipes, Australian didgeridoo led by Romero’s sultry vocals. The message is far from understated and presented in poetic verse that underlines the urgency of the ecological messages found on each song.

Guests include Soni Moreno, Lisa Fischer, the Arctic Village Children’s Choir and The P-Town Boyz (Anishnabe) of Red Lake, Minnesota along with artists from seven countries including New Zealand, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific Islands.

On The Net:

Gary Small & the Coyote Brothers: I Don’t Play by the Rules [Independent]

rules_cover_jpeg.jpgFrom the opening chords of Small’s latest album, there’s no doubting that this blues artist from Wyoming means business. Known for his own particular brand of guitar playing that is often equated with Jimi Hendrix by music critics, his style is more reminiscent of Buddy Guy, regardless of comparisons Small does not disappoint. His playful attitude takes a wily approach to the blues that has generated wide appeal.

With thematic songs containing his three main ingredients of women, love and the road, the platter takes the listener a non-stop raucous journey. In a small departure, “Oh My Marie” rocks with a Cajun swing and a country backbeat that adds to the party-going energy that stems from years of playing clubs and other fun loving venues. Small remains confident and captivating on this ten-track album of original songs - give it a whirl.

On The Net:

Pura Fe: Hold the Rain

[Music Maker]

pura_fe.jpgVeteran singer Pura Fe places her new-found guitar work front and centre on an album of original blues numbers and emerges as a bold and successful stroke. The album showcases her vocal acrobatics, her new found talent of slide guitar playing and compositional freedom with vocals reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell.

The album opens with the beautiful traditional-based vocal harmonies that made her a creative voice throughout her long career. An accomplished artist, her inclusion of the slide guitar is a sweet addition that works in most songs and doesn’t in others. Her performances are crisp, clear and unwavering while combining a sense of the theatrical within the arrangements.

Many of the songs are original to this recording with the exception of “Follow Your Heart’s Desire,” an award-winning song from 1991. She pays tribute to her early jazz influences with a soulful rendition of the standard “Summertime” composed by George Gershwin (mistakenly credited on the album to Rogers & Hammerstein who wrote “In the Good Ol’ Summertime”)

Nevertheless, Hold the Rain is a satisfying blend of new explorations amid the classic Pura Fe sound. The closing number “My People My Land” echoes the traditional singing roots found on her first 1988 recording. Additional performers include guitarist Eric Bibb (vocal duet on “People You Love”); Danny Godinez, guitars; Farko, bass/percussion/keys; George Aragon, drums; Joe Raven, piano Ben Sculz, accordion.

On The Net:

Morningstar River: Waabananang Zibi [independent]

morning_star.jpgThe Toronto-based powwow group Morning Star River best exemplifies the continuing music traditions that exist in large urban centers. Many of the songs are original compositions executed with a dynamic precision often associated with this particular vocal art. Many of the thirteen tracks on the CD are traditional drum, straight and round dance songs with a couple of contemporary powwow songs thrown in for good measure.

Led by Eddy Robinson (Anishnabe), the MSR members possess a remarkable singing talent derived from a lifetime of teachings in the powwow song form and years of experience. Another group member, Gabe Gaudet (Cree), has performed with the award-winning Northern Cree from Saddle Lake, Alberta. Additional members include Theo and Darren McGregor, Wayne Moberly, Nathan Roy, Jonah Robinson, Elijah Stevens, and Darcy Trudeau. The only drawback is the dismal art work that fails to portray the excitement and professionalism of the group’s recorded performance.

On The Net: