Grandfather Song

Jerry Alfred & the Medicine Beat

(RHR 93)

Red House Records, Inc.
P.O. Box 4044
St. Paul, MN 55104

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Erika Sato

"What does a CD which won a Juno Award for Best Aboriginal Recording sound like, and is it something that I could even relate to?" That was the question foremost on my mind when I put this CD into the player. Well, my question was answered in about 20 seconds. Etsi-Shon (EET-si-shown) rocks to the rhythm of a caribou-hide drum. Although Alfred sings in Northern Tutchone, the language of the Selkirk First Nation, he incorporates many pop elements, such as the electric guitar, keyboard and accordion, and creates an infectious juxtaposition of the traditional and modern.

Jerry Alfred, the son of a shaman, was designated at birth to be Keeper of the Songs for the Selkirk First Nation. As such, he has a responsibility to pass along the songs and oral traditions of his people to the younger generations. On Etsi-Shon, he does just that. Grandfather Song, the title song, pays tribute to his grandfather; MacMillan River Song talks about trying to cross a river to his loved one; Generation Hand Down pays reverence to the information that is handed down generation to generation. Alfred's songs are amazingly emotive, passing along the love and respect that he has for nature, his culture and his traditions. The production is extremely well done, in that the traditional feel and character of the songs are never lost in the mix, even while creating an accessible sound for those not familiar with that tradition. The sounds of Alfred's vocals and caribou-hide drum are well-presented, even amidst the rest of the instruments. Especially ear-catching is the drum throughout Beginner Gambling Song and in The Watchmen.

In addition to Alfred, The Medicine Beat is Bob Hamilton on electric guitar, Andrea McColeman on keyboards and accordion, and Marc Paradis on percussion. In this first album, they combine the traditional rhythms, language, and culture of the Selkirk people with modern rock and pop hooks and instruments to create an addictive combination which is appeals across traditions and backgrounds.

Edited by Kerry Dexter

Copyright 1997, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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