Willie Thrasher re-releases another album with a Grammy-nominated producer

Willie Thrasher’s musical revival continues with the re-release of yet another album.

The musician from Aklavik, NWT, who now lives in Nanaimo, performed in the Nordics in the late 60s and 70s.

His album, Inuit country, was originally released in 1994 by Sunshine Records. Thrasher promoted the albums at his concerts and shows.

It’s being re-released through a digital project called Voluntary In Nature by Kevin Howes, the producer who included three of Thrasher’s songs on his Grammy nominee Native North America, Volume 1.

The nomination boosted the profile and revived the careers of a number of lifelong original artists.

Aklavik musician Willie Thrasher performed all over the Nordics in the late 60s and 70s. (Courtesy volunteer in nature)

After Native to North America, Howes and Thrasher also re-released Thrasher’s 1994 album Children of the Spirit, originally recorded by CBC North, through Light in the Attic Records.

Inspired by an old cassette tape

Howes is a music archaeologist who has spent a decade of his life in record stores and archives finding obscure and disparate recordings from the past.

Once he has found them, his passion is to track the artists and producers behind them and focus on their work.

“I came across this cassette,” Howes said. “It was made in the early ’90s for Sunshine Records. It was Willie Thrashers Inuit country and I heard the music and fell in love with it. “

Thrasher said to hear songs like Indian Lady bring him back to what inspired them.

“I was at a powwow in Alberta and there were about … 300 native women dancing in the circle,” he said.

“And then I said ‘Look at the Indian ladies. Wow, beautiful’. Then came this song. It was very, very special for me to write this song for them.”

It was finding a cassette like this that inspired Kevin Howes to work with Willie Thrasher to re-release Indian Inuit Country. (Volunteer in nature)

For Howes, the song that moves him the most on the album We believe in native music, because it reflects what is at the core of Thrasher’s music.

“You know, all of Willie’s songs contain these beautiful messages and thoughtful ideas and celebrations of culture and people and tradition.”

‘Back to life’

Thrasher said Howes’ work to re-release the music of native artists has brought the music of many underrated artists “back to life.”

He lists artists such as Willie Dunn, Eric Landry and Willie Mitchell.

“You know all these legends that are still going on right now, they’re still making music,” said Thrasher, who continued to perform in the ’70s.

“People who are almost forgotten, but they will never be forgotten because they continue their music.”

He calls it an honor to work with Kevin, who has “so much love and affection to do all that work.”

Perfect time to support artists

Inuit country is one of three albums on Howes’ Voluntary In Nature website and social media, which he describes as an “outlet for sharing.”

Another is the reissued work of Wayne McGhie, a Toronto-based Jamaican artist who released one of the first LPs of a black artist in Canada, and who struggled with mental health issues throughout his career.

Kevin Howes launched ‘Voluntary in Nature’ online and on social media to support the work of underrated musicians like Willie Thrasher. (Jennifer Forward Frost)

The other includes Catseye, a band that included Canadian Duane O’Kane and recorded an album in London that got some attention from the BBC but was never actually released until Howes discovered it and shared on social media.

Howes said the COVID-19 age is the right time for this kind of work.

The music of artists like Thrasher “can bring people together,” he said.

“It can heal, and we need it right now.”

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