Siskabush Tales

by Art Napoleon

Track listing: Little Molly, Ready To Go, Soulmate # 39, Rez Highway, Round Dancing, Wildman Charlie, Talk About Cars, Addicted, Creejun Stomp, Big Wide Dream, My Grandma, Connected

Siskabush /sees-ka-bush/ - a Cree/English pidgen word referring to those who gather at the edge of the woods to feed their addictions

Rarely does one come across as eye-opening a first line of an artist bio as that of Canadian singer/songwriter, Art Napoleon, a self-described "bushman from the boreal foothills of Northern BC, [who] can still skin a moose with a pocket knife..." A one-time chief raised by Cree-speaking grandparents, Napoleon's latest album Siskabush Tales paints a unique lyrical picture when set against the album's sonically Americana/alt-country backdrop. Combining his Cree heritage with influences from storytelling songwriters the likes of Dylan, Cash, and John Hiatt, Art Napoleon has created a slice-of-life recording not often heard through mainstream outlets.

The songs of Siskabush Tales explore not only what Napoleon describes as "the beauty, pain, and awe of the human experience," which are written about by many songwriters, but also life from a First Nations point of view. His metaphors and references touch on aspects of reservation life—round dancing, Elders, spirits—as well as North American particulars like the aurora borealis, all of which are rarities among typical alt-country lyrics.

From the opening track, Napoleon's lyrical intensity makes a powerful statement. "Little Molly" addresses familial loss and inspiration, using the beauty of culture and geography to create the song's vision. "If I were an angel I would break the frozen skies to be with you...I would ride the Northern Lights to see you through." The following song, "Ready To Go," a heavy blues groove, dismisses today's international border squabbling by providing a historical aboriginal perspective, "Left and right wing politics, lord it's just a great big show / the immigration problem started many moons ago."

Siskabush Tales is a quality addition to the ever-growing Americana/alt-country genre. With its clean-yet-still-organic production quality, tasteful and skillful musicianship, and compelling songwriting, the album fits nicely amongst personal playlists while also standing out from the crowd with its well-written and too-infrequently told true First Nations stories.

Posted on 6/6/09