Canadian Musician - July/August 2017 - Page 41

always a higher priority in French Canada, there continues to be a strong interest in music, but that industry has been hit hard by the collapse of physical sales as well. Having no access to the rest of the nation’s touring and sales markets makes matters worse. So they look to where language isn’t a barrier, which is in Europe. French Canadians have had a regular run of success on the continent since the ‘50s and ‘60s with singers such as Gilles Vigneault and Félix Leclerc earning as much praise abroad as at home. As artists in English Canada start looking more and more to Europe as a new or alternative market, Francophones got there first and are still making the trek. Lisa LeBlanc of tiny Rosaireville in New Brunswick found out what a little European success can mean. Her self-titled debut from 2013 showcased a new kind of sound that took Acadie, then Quebec by storm. “Trash folk,” she called it, singing in Chiac with lots of English slang thrown into the lyrics, including plenty of swear- ing and lots of humour. She could play her banjo like a woman possessed, or belt out a country tear-jerker. The major Quebec TV shows loved her and she was soon playing all the major showcases and festivals. “The album just kind of worked,” says LeBlanc. “We had some great press, and we were really lucky.” Then she started doing shows in Europe and watched the album take off. She saw sales climb to 140,000 units. Even though the music was filled with phrases and references that didn’t translate all that well, European fans knew what they liked. “We have such a beautiful following in France and in Swit- zerland and Belgium,” she says. “Some people are like, ‘Hey, I heard your song on the radio in France the other day.’ And for me, that’s totally weird, because I feel like such a black sheep going there, you know?” It’s just another example of Canada doing well in the global marketplace, according to Kane. “A song can come from anywhere and start from anywhere. I’m seeing more and more C anadians be- ing willing to take the chance, and going, ‘Okay, I’ve got to go start making something happen in Germany. That’s where I’m going. I gotta go start making something happen in the Far East. That’s where I’m going to go.’” At many Canada 150 events, Indigenous people are being rep- resented and given a voice. There seems to be at least an attempt to follow the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation report in a public Lisa Leblanc way, and many Aboriginal performers and groups will take part. The music industry can even point to stars – A Tribe Called Red, Tanya Tagaq, and a resurgent Buffy Sainte-Marie. But Indigenous artists are still battling to be heard after years of being mostly ignored in the media, in the live music scene, and in the recording industry. Music historian Kevin Howes found much of the Aboriginal recording history of the past 50 years lying in Canada’s vinyl trash heaps. Howes has spent the past 20 years travelling the country, searching through the thrift stores, Sally Anns, and used shops, crate-digging to find obscure and unsung Canadian music. In the boxes of dusty 45s, he took note of all the Indigenous music he was finding and started paying attention to the quality and cultural signif- icance of much of it. Already the producer of the highly regarded Jamaica to Toronto series of albums, Howes turned his attention to these obscure re- cords. In 2014, the two-disc collection Native North America, Vol. 1 was released, featuring 23 artists such as Willie Dunn, Lloyd Cheechoo, and Shingoose. It took a U.S. label, Light in the Attic, to release this mostly Canadian-based set. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N • 41