Willie Thrasher

Nov 10 7:00pm

Earth Club/Guesthouse Bistro

Willie Thrasher

Willie Thrasher is an Inuit/First Nations/Canadian icon. His first band, The Cordells, toured northern Canada in the late 1960s and early 1970s, playing schools and community halls. Based out of Inuvik, they were considered the town’s first rock and roll band, and played mostly contemporary songs and covers. After a show in the mid-1970s, Thrasher was approached by an elderly man and challenged as to why he didn’t play music that reflected his Inuit heritage. From that point, Thrasher moved into more personal songwriting and began studying Inuit music.

After this change in style, Thrasher joined Canadian artists such as Buffy Sainte-Marie and Willie Dunn in exploring their Inuit and First Nations roots in the mid-1970s, and speaking out on political issues. Thrasher toured heavily in this period, and suffered from alcoholism. In the early 1980s, Thrasher made two recordings with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Northern Service: Spirit Child, a full-length studio album of original songs, and Sweet Grass, a live recording in Val-d’Or, Quebec, with fellow First Nations musicians Willy Mitchell, Morley Loon, and Roger House.

Thrasher joined Morley Loon as part of his Vancouver-based Red Cedar group in the 1980s. In 1990, Thrasher participated in the Odeyak expedition, where Cree and Inuit leaders paddled from Quebec to New York City. A song composed by Thrasher was performed in Times Square by the group. In 1998, Thrasher performed as part of a revival of traditional potlach ceremonies organised by Commissioner of the Yukon Judy Gingell in Whitehorse. Thrasher currently lives on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia.

His songs “Spirit Child”, “Old Man Carver” and “We Got to Take You Higher” are featured on the 2014 compilation album Native North America, Vol. 1. As a result of the revived publicity from the Native North America compilation, Thrasher has undertaken more extensive touring, including festival dates in Austin, Texas and the Northwest Territories, and his 1981 album Spirit Child was reissued in October 2015 on Light in the Attic Records.

In 1981, Thrasher put out an album, Spirit Child, steeped in his Inuvialuit culture, with tracks such as Old Man Inuit and Shingle Point Whale Camp.

Nearly 35 years later, the album has been reissued, following the inclusion of three tracks on an anthology of indigenous music released by Seattle-based Light in the Attic Records, which has a solid track record of releasing high quality reissues. Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985 received global attention, critical acclaim and sent Thrasher – whom you might find busking in Nanaimo, B.C. – back into the spotlight.

Thrasher is now touring and getting the credit he deserves for his musical contributions to the stories of Canada’s First Peoples. Seeing him up close and personal at the Denman Island Guesthouse will be a rare treat!