Published Nov 06, 2015Naturally, as one of the artists showcased on the cover illustration of 2014's Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 compilation, folk singer Willie Thrasher has become one of the most recognizable faces of the ongoing reissue series. In addition to helping promote the landmark release of recovered First Nations recordings, his role as an active touring musician has brought him plenty of press over the last year. He believes both are linked to Light in the Attic's decision to give his rare 1981 full-length Spirit Child, a deluxe re-release.
"It might be because I was the one that was capable of travelling and performing," the Nanaimo, BC-based singer-songwriter tells Exclaim! of his presence promoting Native North America. "I went to Austin, I went to Victoria and Vancouver, and Yellowknife. I did a lot of interviews, and I love performing and playing. The other performers were busy working, or hardly performing at all."
While other artists, including John Angaiak and Duke Redbird, have made various appearances supporting the compilation, Thrasher has been hitting the promo trail hard. Now, his contributions to the collection are being re-bolstered in their original form via the newly released repress of Spirit Child. Considering the vinyl album was originally delivered with little fanfare by the CBC before languishing in obscurity, Thrasher is glad the 11-song record is getting a second chance.
"I was so upset with the CBC," Thrasher recalls of Spirit Child's early '80s arrival. "I was so mad at them at one point that I forgot all the words to every one of the songs. They didn't push [Spirit Child] the way they should've — they only kept it going for six months and then sold it to somebody we didn't even know. From there on, nothing really happened."
Through in-house curator Kevin Howes, Light in the Attic grabbed the title track, "Old Man Carver" and "We Got to Take You Higher" for NNA Vol. 1. Now, the full album release highlights everything, from the autumn breeze strumming of "Forefathers" and Northern radio hit "Silent Inuit" to the rolling-thunder folk rock of "Wolves Don't Live by the Rules." The songs are united, however, in their celebration of Thrasher's Inuit heritage, which he went on to reclaim following a youth spent being white-washed by Catholicism in the Northwest Territories residential school system.
Despite the acclaim he's received for his rediscovered songbook, Thrasher doesn't often play his older material in concert. Instead, he has been performing of-the-moment pieces with current partner and musical collaborator Linda Saddleback. A new full-length is in the works.
"I'm too focused on the now," Thrasher relays. "Kevin Howes and a band called Dada Plan from Vancouver, they've got a studio and they record our songs sometimes. Hopefully we will get together some time and work out an album."