An album by Inuk rocker Willie Thrasher that was previously only available on cassette tape or for purchase at concerts in the mid-90s, is now widely available online.
And the world is a better place for it, says the producer behind the re-release.
Indian/Inuit Country was originally recorded by Thrasher and released by Sunshine Records in Winnipeg in 1994. Years later, a deal was struck with the owner of the recording studio, Thrasher and producer Kevin Howes, to re-release the album.
The music is now available on Bandcamp for all to hear.
Howes believes Thrasher’s music makes the world a better place.
“The quality of the music I was hearing, what Willie was singing about. Learning about his Inuvialuit culture. It was just something that was new to me and I thought it was great. And I’d been collecting records for many years and finding records by the likes of Willie Dunn and Shingoose and it was incredible to learn more about Indigenous music,” says Howes.
This is the pairs third time teaming up. The first time was for a compilation Howes put together for Light In The Attic records, Native North America Volume 1. The largely unheard, 34 tracks featured music from Indigenous artists covering the years 1996-1985.
The compilation would earn Howes a Grammy nomination. Three tracks from Thrasher’s Spirit Child album were included in the compilation.
Howes says he was blown away the first time he heard Spirit Child.
Thrasher, who is originally from Aklavik, N.W.T. first broke on the music scene in the 1960s when he formed the Cordells with his brothers and friends.
“I remember when I played with the Cordells, and I was 13, 14 years old and I didn’t know much about the Inuit culture until an old man came up to me when I was the drummer of the Cordell band and he said ‘why don’t you write Inuvialuit music, your people, your culture, your ways.’
“I never had dreamed that what that man had said could beam me to where I am today. Where I’m in a book and a really beautiful album being sold all over the world,” says Thrasher on the latest edition of Face to Face.
A lot of the songs that Thrasher writes are about the land and animals. Things he remembers fondly growing up with his family who lived in town part of the year and on the land for part of the year. That all changed for Thrasher when he was five years old.
“I had to go to residential school. Taken away. All of my culture was wiped right out of my head,” says Thrasher.
“My dad and mom were hunting and living off the land on the Mackenzie River. In the summertime, I would go back and see them and live with them until I had to go back to the residential school and I saw a lot of things change dramatically.
“It was hard for me to try to find many of my traditional ways and the way that I found out was through my uncle and my grandfather and listening to stories from the elders and that’s how I became to be an Inuit songwriter. I wrote music of the life I missed so much,” says Thrasher.
Howes and Thrasher have clocked a lot of miles together over the last decade. Booking shows and interviews to promote Native North America Vol. 1 and the re-releases of Spirit Child and Indian/Inuit Country.
Howes says “music has been a great connector” and a great way to heal and “there’s a lot of healing that needs to be in this divisive time and we need to come together and I think music is a beautiful way for that happen.”
Thrasher is currently working on a new album called Sacred Fire.