The Jerry Cans: June 2017 Album of the Month

Inuusiq (Life)

The Jerry Cans hail from Nunavut, Canada's far northeastern territory. It's 2 ½ times larger than Great Britain and France combined, yet it contains only 35,000 people, its capital, the Baffin Island town of Iqaluit has a fifth them, and much of the territory lies above the Arctic Circle. Two-thirds of the population is Aboriginal and more than half speak a first language other than English.  

Why the geography lesson? If you're going to put together a band that, as The Jerry Cans have done, is strong enough to appeal to a small but diverse audience yet gain enough traction to win some Canadian Music awards, you'd better be damned versatile. They are. Imagine a less countrified Ray LaMontague fronting a band with the good time vibe of Great Big Sea and you are on the road to getting the Jerry Cans, but you're still not there. This band can rock, toss of an Irish fiddle lick, tamp it down for some folk music, and still find time for some Inuktitut throat singing. That's impressive given that lead vocalist, the muscular- and raspy-voiced Andrew Morrison, didn't know a word of First Nations languages before he moved to Nunavut and fell for Nancy Mike, an Inuk woman (accordion, vocals).

Were it not for the growling breaths and unfamiliar language, you'd swear you're in a hipster club with dancers thrusting pumped arms in the air and belting out the "whooa oooaaa" chorus of "Ukiuq," which zips along to guitar, Gina Burgess' fiddle, Steve Rigby's drums, and Brendan Doherty's bass. On another song whose name contains—I kid you not—22 letters, the song feels like something Hawaiian mixed with pop rock song. I've no idea what Morrison and Mike are singing, but it sounds very, very cool. Then there's "Nirlit," filled with yips, barks, and an ever-gathering pace that's a prelude to a robust song with tinges of punk rock. Can this be the same band that slows things down for the acoustic "Tusaavit" or the piano-centered "Arnaluka?" Each would be labeled tender if Morrison's voice were smoother. But this band doesn't really do smooth for very long. Check out the reggae central groove of "Maikliqta," albeit one supplemented by everything from an infectious hook, some jaw harp, and a few other sounds I simply can't identify. Fancy something in an electric bluegrass mode?  Try "Paniarjuk" or "Isumagivappinnga." The Jerry Cans bring it home with the joyous "Anaanaga" and a repeat of the first track, which I gather translates "Northern Lights."

This record should erase any doubts you had that you're living in the Global Village. Listen. Dance. Enjoy. Just don't ask me to tell you what any of these songs mean. #Inuusiq

Rob Weir

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