On February 7, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 2012 Juno awards (often described as the "Canadian Grammys"), and once again it looks like a tight race in the Aboriginal Album of the Year category. The award is sponsored by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, and last year it was won by Cree duo CerAmony for their self-titled album.
Bruthers of Different Muthers
Hailing from Winnipeg, rock/alternative act Bruthers of Different Muthers are nominated for their debut album, Speakers of Tomorrow. "We’ve always wanted to make a stance in the movement of real traditional rock with an 'ndn' edge," explains Michel Bruyere in the band's official bio. "[Speakers of Tomorrow] means a lot to the group, because we actually used our live touring gear for a more real live sound. ... This record is true Alter-native rock! The guitars are thick; everything is just 'real' sounding." Speakers of Tomorrow has to be considered a favorite, having won the Aboriginal People's Choice Award for Best Rock Album.
A multi-instrumentalist, Donny Parenteau began his career playing with Texan country musician Neal McCoy; in his 12 years of touring as a part of McCoy's band, Parenteau shared the stage with such country legends as Charlie Daniels, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Shania Twain and Reba McEntire. In 2003, Parenteau parted ways with McCoy and released his first solo album. His third and latest album, To Whom It May Concern, is nominated, as was his previous one, What It Takes.
Flying Down Thunder and Rise Ashen
A pair of innovative musicians, Flying Down Thunder and Rise Ashen create music they describe as "ancient to future," a true melding of the very traditional and the very modern. Rise Ashen (Eric Vani) is an accomplished DJ with a background in nu-jazz, breakbeats, and house music; Flying Down Thunder (Kevin Chief) is a veteran Algonquin pow wow singer. A review of the nominated album, One Nation, at exclaim.ca found it to be "so much more than the sum of its parts, as songs like "Miskojonia?Red Gold" (featuring spoken word from the late Algonquin Hereditary Chief) and "Pejig Dodem?One Nation" (with Ashen rapping a 1987 speech delivered to the UN) come off as slick, modern and inventive as they are poignant."
Murray Porter, Turtle Clan Mohawk, has described himself in song as "a red man, singing the black man's blues, living in a white man's world." Despite having a career that spans 30 years, his Juno-nominated release, Songs Lived & Life Played, is just his second solo album of "foot-stomping, hand-clapping, Native blues piano." A reviewer for the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society website (ammsa.com) wrote that "Murray Porter is a song writer first and foremost and every song is instantly enjoyable, easy to listen to in almost any setting. ... This album satisfies the hunger for more Murray Porter music, though I hope Porter recognizes 16 years is way too long to wait for the next fix."
Randy Wood has earned numerous Grammy nominations; twice as a solo artist and five times with Northern Cree, the group he co-founded. For this year's Juno awards, it's a solo work, The Gift of Life, that has earned him a nomination. Indian Country Today's Vincent Schilling praised Wood's "haunting vocals" on this collection of round dance songs and found the whole disc to be "effective and affecting." The Gift of Life won the Best Traditional Recording award at the most recent Native American Music Awards (NAMMYs).
Photograph of Murray Porter courtesy Kevin James Day.