In Focus: Native North America @ Winnipeg Folk Fest

On Saturday, July 9, Winnipeg Folk Festival made history with an exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime workshop that folkies won’t soon forget.

Native North America: A Selection of Musical Trailblazers on Stage showcased a handful of artists whose music – and in some cases, careers – were revived by the 2014 release of Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock and Country 1966-1985. Compiled and curated by Vancouver-based DJ Kevin Howes, the Grammy-nominated box set features 34 remastered tracks by a lost generation of indigenous musicians who were overlooked in the prime of their careers.

Despite cloudy skies and a late-afternoon drizzle, festival-goers packed the field around Bur Oak Stage for a 75-minute set featuring Duke Redbird, Eric Landry, Willy Mitchell and Willie Thrasher, with special appearances by Shingoose and local singer/songwriter William Prince.

After Duke Redbird opened the show with some moving and thought-provoking poetry, Prince played a couple of tunes from NNA V1 and an original, his baritone vocals holding the audience captive with every note. Landry followed with a tribute to the late, great Willie Dunn and an instrumental piece with a life of its own. Local legend Shingoose then took the stage for some storytelling and a special performance before Mitchell and Thrasher wrapped things with an upbeat set of timeless folk and rock music that left the appreciative audience asking for more.

Here’s a look back at the historic day that was.

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