Thanks to a friend of mine, RoseAnna Campbell, I recently got the chance to listen to a new music production that was created by her brother Vern Cheechoo and his friend Lawrence Martin (Wapistan). They are both well known First Nation musicians from the James Bay coast. Both Lawrence and Vern are popular Cree musicians who have created several music projects and have performed for years as recognized artists in the music industry. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that they had teamed up to create a new CD production titled The Right Combination.
This is a project that both Lawrence and Vern have wanted to do for many years. They are old friends who have known each other well since high school. Over the years they have followed their dreams in music to become successful artists. Many times they have performed together but they were never able to take the time to create a collection of music from their collaborations.
Both of these musicians have been part of the First Nation music scene for many years. Lawrence has been in the music business for a long time and has been involved in several major projects of his own in the industry. He is well known for his recognition as a Juno Award winner as a First Nation musician. In the past few years he has also become a leader in regional Native politics and was involved in the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, Wawatay Native Communications and held the position of Grand Chief of Mushkegowuk Council, which serves several First Nations along the James Bay coast and northeastern Ontario.
Vern comes from a musically gifted family. His father is the late Sinclair Cheechoo, a famous old time fiddle player who travelled to communities along the James Bay coast, in southern towns, nationally and even internationally. Sinclair was well known for his ability to play traditional jigs and tunes that have been handed down for generations from European explorers and travellers who were musicians. Vern’s mother Janie sometimes accompanied her husband’s fiddle music on the steel guitar. Most of his brothers and sisters are involved in music. Vern has been involved in numerous music projects over the years. Some have included soundtracks for productions like The Rez, Northern Exposure and television specials with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
He has also produced or taken part in numerous recordings and productions. In addition, Vern has also performed at festivals and events and as a supporting act in several concerts, most notably with Bruce Cockburn, Indigo Girls, Buffy Ste. Marie and Kashtin. His brother Archie Cheechoo and sister Thelma Cheechoo are also prominent First Nation musicians.
The Right Combination was initiated in the fall of 2001. Although Vern now spends most of his time in Saskatchewan and Lawrence resides in the Chapleau area in northern Ontario, they were both committed to creating this production. With their acquired knowledge and ability they recorded six songs each in a matter of months. In addition they also started developing a record company called “A Spirit Voice,” along with Vern’s wife Karen and Lawrence’s life partner, Betty Albert-Lincez (Wabimeguil) to help produce and record other artists aswell. As a matter of fact, Betty, who is a prominent First Nation visual artist in her own right, created the beautiful artwork for the CD.
The Right Combination is really a wonderful production and you can tell by hearing the strong country tunes that these two are very much on the same track. It is good to hear songs that are meant for the mainstream country market in addition to the First Nation listeners. These guys are incredible songwriters, their vocals are strong and the musicianship on this production is fantastic. They did not fool around in recording this CD and used studios in Nashville, Tennessee; Toronto, Ontario and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Go to www.aspiritvoice.com to find out more about their CD and to order it. If you love country music then you must add this to your collection. Meegwetch, Lawrence, Vern, Karen and Betty for all your hard work and for making all of us proud.