We begin our series of profiles on the JUNO nominees with the most important of all JUNO categories: Aboriginal Album of the Year. If you were to hear all five of these masterpieces, you would declare that Aboriginal musicians can match and even better the rest of us in all genres of music.
♥ Fact #1: Four of the five artists in this category are first-time JUNO nominees.
♥ Fact #2: All five artists in the category are among Canada’s most beautiful people.
Keep a Fire by Amanda Rheaume (Ottawa)
Sowing the seeds of roots music that blossom with captivating stories, this talented singer-songwriter has toured around the globe. She has a beautiful voice that delivers the poetry with clarity, and the musicianship is first-rate; you will hear some great guitar work, both acoustic and electrified. The album effectively ties the epic journey of Amanda’s ancestors into Canadian history, daubing personal intricacy onto a broad national canvas. The result is a breathtaking mural of emotion and intelligence that amazes and inspires.
Small Town Stories by Desiree Dorion (Dauphin, MB)
This is high-powered country music that exudes energy and perky poise. One stomp from this cowgirl, and the echo would disarm a ring of bandits. In terms of songwriting, Desiree is among the elite. “Turn to Me”, about her daughter, received an honourable mention at the 2012 International Songwriting Competition. A vocal quality which has been compared to Dolly Parton’s is underscored with stellar instrumentation (check out the guitar solo on “Mama Got a Shotgun”). Forget the caffeine, this album will rev up your heart.
Surrender by George Leach (Lillooet, BC)
This is rock, and in terms of the eclectic, George is at the forefront of the game. In fact, we think Hendrix and AC/DC could learn a few things from him. With the flip of a guitar pick, he eases from the classic to the modern, from the bluesy to the funkadelic, and from the powerful to the gentle. George can use his voice to shatter mountains but also to elicit blood from a stone via tenderness and sincerity. Every, single track on this gem is an original masterpiece of writing and delivery, and George Leach is one of Canada’s finest talents.
Burn Me Down by Inez Jasper (Chilliwack, BC)
Inez Jasper is arguably the leading Aboriginal artist in the realm of popular music. Her debut release in 2009 won four Aboriginal People’s Choice Awards and was nominated for a JUNO. She is able to sculpt ridges of dance beats and R&B grooves, feature the occasional rapper, First Nations chanter, and sprinkle the savoury result with a pinch of Aboriginal spice giving it that extra edge over run-of-the-mill CHR fare. Whether you dish up the cupcakes or fire up the bannock, Burn Me Down will get your body bouncing and the party started.
Road Renditions by Nathan Cunningham (Edmonton)
Nathan is a country artist and has performed with Rita Coolidge, Dwight Yoakam, and Nazareth. He has also taken part in Johnny Reid’s choir. He has won Aboriginal Peoples Choice Awards and his songs have topped the National Aboriginal charts. Road Renditions contains beautiful compositions, and he features a number of guest singers on the album. He gets inspirational on “Sent For an Angel”, performs country-rap on “3 Wisemen”, country-dance on “Saturday Night Angel”, and closes with crooning splendour on “Warriors”.