June 23, 2008

Playing the Mohawk blues

The Pappy Johns Band:  Fabulously Badass BluesThe Pappy Johns Band may not be from the Delta, but they surely have paid their dues. Started 30 years ago by Oren Doxtator and Don Powless, the band of four Canadian Mohawk and Oneida musicians has performed internationally at venues including the Chicago Blues Festival, the Blues sur Seine in France and the Montreal Jazz Festival. This summer, southern Ontario’s favorite sons are releasing a new CD, “Pappy Johns III: Having a Good Time Now” with a fresh sound that stays true to rez-blue foundation.

Lead singer and guitarist Joshua Miller, the youngest band member at age 33, wrote most of the new tracks describing them as “…rockin’ blues with roots in country and soul.” This creates a distinct compilation, he explains, that comes from growing up on the Six Nations Mohawk reserve where families play and appreciate all forms of music.
And: “We’ve received mainstream attention in the blues community for being trailblazers and have gotten a lot of respect in the Native community as well. No matter where we go we find people appreciate our music,” Miller says.

But how is their music intrinsically “Native,” if at all?

“What is an aboriginal sound? Is it only something that has drums and flutes?” he asks rhetorically. “African-American blues music and what we call traditional Native music have a very close relationship that dates back to the Underground Railroad. A lot of the music was influenced by what they heard as they traveled through the reservations heading north.”

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