Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 is a new 2 CD/3 LP box set that surveys Canadian and northern U.S. Native artists from those years of protest and change within Native culture. The music on this compilation has been out of print for years, but is now available to a new generation of listeners through the work of Vancouver-based record collector, archaeologist, and curator Kevin "Sipreano” Howes, who researched this project for 15 years. The tracks have been remastered so that they sound like they were recorded yesterday.
Howes scoured flea markets to find the original vinyl releases and then set out to find the artists who made them. With help from the artists he discovered, and their producers, family members, and behind-the-scenes players, Howes was able to track down original recordings and put together an extensive booklet (120 pages in the CD format/60 pages in LP format) on the history of these recordings.
Musically, the set ranges from recordings with simple arrangements for guitar and voices, like Alexis Utatnaq’s “Maqaivvigivalauqtavut” to music that would just as easily fit in one of the classic psychedelic/garage rock compilations, like Nuggets or Pebbles, such as “Fall Away” by Sugluk, an Inuit band from northernmost Quebec, just outside the Arctic Circle. However the description of “Folk, Rock, and Country” in the compilation’s title is not so much a description of three separate genres as it is describing the crossover that runs throughout this music, along with the blues and Native music, instrumentation, motifs, and languages mixed in. Rather than sounding like a crazy quilt of Native music from two decades, Howes sequenced a cohesive album that celebrates the musical connections of people from many different traditions, areas, and decades.
Of course, lyrically, the album reflects its times. While some of the songs were inspired by mainstream pop music, with its concerns of love and relationships, the majority of the lyrics deal with mythical themes and political protests, and quite often these two themes blur together, like Willy Mitchell’s "Call of the Moose" and Ernest Monias’ "Tormented Soul." The album is equally concerned with both presenting some great music that was almost lost AND the struggle the Native people of North America have dealt with for over half a millennium. It’s an instant classic worthy of setting on the shelf next to your old LPs of Xit, Redbone, and Jesse Ed Davis.
Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 is available on the audiophile label Light in the Attic, on CD and LP (limited editions have been pressed in Burnt Orange, Tan, and Gold vinyl, and in a standard black edition). It is also available for download, and you can stream it now for free through Spotify. A companion set featuring Native folk, rock, and country from the United States’ Lower 48 and Mexico is currently in production, according to the label. For more information and to listen to samples, visit the album's official page at lightintheattic.net.