The Jerry Cans-Inuusiq.

Over the last few years, The Jerry Cans have been one of the rising stars of the Canadian music scene. Recently, though, The Jerry Cans’ music has won them friends much further afield than the of Arctic reaches of Iqaluit, Nunavut, their hometown in the far North of Canada.

This includes in Scotland, where The Jerry Cans played at the prestigious Celtic Connections’ festival in early 2017. The Jerry Cans then won friends in Cuba, before embarking upon a lengthy and successful tour of Australia, where audiences discovered the delights of their two previous albums Nunavuttitut and Aakuluk, plus their forthcoming third album Inuusiq, which will be released on the ‘5th’ of May 2017, on Aakuluk Music. Inuusiq is a very personal album for The Jerry Cans, as it had been influenced and inspired by their life in Iqaluitt, and the sounds of the environment around them.

Nancy Mike singer, songwriter and cofounder of The Jerry Cans  reflects on the band’s music: “We wanted to reflect the sounds of the North. “Our neighbours’ dogs, the ravens at the dump, the wind in a blizzard. We wanted to pay homage to the natural sounds of our life. But we also want it to be clear that we listen to Bob Marley and stream pop tracks. We have opinions about popular music. Sometimes, that’s challenging for people to hear.” Hopefully, not for much longer as The Jerry Cans have been providing a voice for the people of Iqaluit, Nunavut since the band was formed in 2008.

Unlike many bands, The Jerry Cans haven’t turned their back on their hometown and moved to the city in the furtherance of their career. Iqaluit, Nunavut in Canada’s Arctic reaches is where The Jerry Cans were formed in 2008, and is where the five members of the band still live. 

This includes The Jerry Cans’ rhythm section of drummer Steve Rigby, bassist Brendan Doherty and guitarist and vocalist Andrew Morrison. Adding to The Jerry Cans’ unique and inimitable sound is violinist Gina Burgess and accordionist and throat singer Nancy Mike. The five members of The Jerry Cans are proud of their hometown and their roots. So much so, that they sing many of their songs in Inuktitut, a language that the band are passionate about preserving, despite their community continuing to evolve. However, the members of The Jerry Cans know that if Inuktitut language isn’t preserved, it will quickly become obsolete. That won’t happen on their watch,

It’s not just the Inuktitut language that The Jerry Cans are determined to preserve. They’re also determined to challenge existing misperceptions and stereotypes they’ve encountered about life and living in the Arctic. That is admirable, because if these misconceptions aren’t challenged they’ll continue to perpetuated. Not if The Jerry Cans can help it. They provide a voice for their community; are a force for change and are a band that bring the local community together during what’s been.

Just like many rural communities, life can be tough in Iqaluit, which has been shaped and influence over several centuries by Inuk culture. However,over the past twenty or thirty years, life in Iqaluit has started to change and in some cases, change drastically. One of the major changes has been the people of Iqaluit becoming reconnected to the South of the Canada. While many regard this as a positive development, not everyone wanted to embraced such dramatic and drastic changes. Many people preferred their previous life. Not everyone though, as this has sometimes led to isolation, despair, and tragically epidemic of suicide among Iqaluit residents. These have been challenging times for some of the people of Nunavut. Trying to provide a voice for them are The Jerry Cans.

Some of The Jerry Cans’ songs deal with what are challenging and difficult topics. They deal with these challenges head on, provide a voice to the struggles of the people of Iqaluit. Other times, The Jerry Cans bring to life the joys of life in far North of Canada.

Especially when The Jerry Cans play live in their beloved hometown of Nunavut. All of a sudden people of all ages head to the dance-floor. However, some of The Jerry Cans’ songs provoke a very different reaction.

Sometimes, The Jerry Cans have received letters from younger members of the community. They feel they’re speaking for them, while others reach out to the band with impassioned pleas for help and understanding. Nancy Mike muses: “I think the ability to express and understand what’s happening in your world is important. Isolation is a very big contributor to mental health issues like suicide. When we sing about going through tough times in the North, it fights that. When young people speak up and take pride and find balance, that can be a powerful weapon.” The Jerry Cans can also take pride, because their music has encouraged people to give voice to their worries and concerns.

Recently, The Jerry Cans have also been investing their own time and money in the local community. They founded what was the first very record label in Iqaluit, Aakuluk Music. It allows The Jerry Cans to combine three of their passions the Inuktitut language, music and the local community. Andrew Morrison reflects on the decision to found a label locally: “We had thrown around the idea to start a label to support Inuktitut music. We have four young artists singing in Inuktitut.” That is a good start for the nascent label. Especially considering what Andrew used to hear: “We’ve often heard as we were pitching our work, that if you want to succeed, you have to sing in English. We don’t accept that. We wanted to create a business entity to support it.” This they’ve succeed in doing, and it seems that The Jerry Cans’ timing is perfect.

Recently, there’s been a cultural shift within Canada, and hopefully, this will allow Inuk culture and music to find a much wider audience. This cultural shift came when the indigenous communities’ struggle for recognition received recognition by the Canadian government. Hopefully, this is the start of further meaningful dialogue. The Jerry Cans certainly welcome any further dialogue, with Andrew Morrison saying: “we are very happy to talk about what’s happening between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. There’s a big historical shift that’s underway. We’re trying to insert those politics in an appropriate way. The music can be hard to understand, but it gives an access point to a really brilliant beautiful culture.”

This “beautiful culture” has inspired and influenced The Jerry  Cans’ forthcoming third album, Inuusiq. It’s best described as a fusion of indie rock, reggae, and country noir which tries and succeed in attempting to reframe Inuktitut insights and traditional throat singing. The inspiration for Inuusiq was The Jerry Cans’ life and sounds around them in Iqaluit. This includes Inuk throat singing which features on Inuusiq.

Singer and songwriter Nancy Mike is a talented practitioner of throat singing. It’s something that she’s been doing all her life. Nancy was born into a large family in what was a small, but culturally vibrant town. She grew up speaking Inuktitut and throat singing. This is usually performed by pairs of young women who use the resonance of each other’s mouths to amplify throaty, rhythmic sounds. Throat singing and Inuktitut play an important part in The Jerry Cans’ music, and in Nancy’s life.

This Andrew Morrison who grew up in Nunavut was to discover. Later, he got a job as producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and met Nancy Mike. The pair fell in love, and eventually he asked Nancy’s father for her hand in marriage. While the answer was yes, there was a caveat, he had to learn to speak Inuktitut fluently. Having mastered Inuktitut, Andrew set about putting his newly gained language skills to good use.

Soon, he was writing songs in Inuktitut, which allowed him to perfect his newly gained language skills. For The Jerry Cans’ forthcoming album Inuusiq Andrew Morrison and Nancy Mike combined to create the framework for the songs that drew upon local issues. This included a deeply moving and poignant song Arnalukaq, which was inspired by the Missing Women Inquiry. It’s a national enquiry setup to deal with the disappearance of Native women across Canada. Arnalukaq is an impassioned piano lead song where counter this terrible tragedy with a reminder that all women are beautiful and worthy of respect. This is just one of the eleven songs on Inuusiq.

Intro may only last twenty-three seconds, but during this time the listener is introduced to the sounds of Iqaluit’s landscape in the Arctic reaches.

Ukiuq opens with Nancy’s throat singing, in what was The Jerry Cans’ attempt to an Inuktitut answer Bob Dylan’s North Country Girl. Meanwhile, the rhythm section, shimmering guitar and violin accompany Andrew’s powerful and impassioned vocal. Nancy’s throat singing is a feature of the arrangement. So too is the wistful strain of the violin, which late helps power the arrangement along as the tempo rises. By then, a joyous and irresistible fusion of folk, country and indie rock is unfolding, and would be guaranteed to fill any dance-floor. 

Equally catchy is Isumagivappinnga (Do You Think of Me?), which   explodes into life as Andrew unleashes a vocal that’s an outpouring of emotion. Equally emotive is Nancy’s vocal, as they sing of their life on the tundra, which they prefer to the tedium of pushing paper in office. This bittersweet punk-country love song is one many people will be able to relate to.

Initially, Nirliit is a showcase for Nancy’s throat singing, while the rest of The Jerry Cans power the arrangement along. That is until Andrew delivers a heartfelt vocal as he encourages young Canadian’s to focus on the beauty in their life. Especially in Nunavut which has the highest suicide rate in Canada. Later, Gina’s fiddle proves the perfect foil to Nancy’s throat singing. It more than makes up for the lack of a second throat singer, during a song that features an important message and features The Jerry Cans in full flight.

Makiliqta is another song with an important message, where Andrew delivers another impassioned vocal. This time, he’s singing to the young Canadian women trapped in abusive relationships. He reminds them of what they are, and that they will always be beautiful. Later, Nancy adds an emotive vocal, before throat singing against a multilayered arrangement. Meanwhile, layers of instruments intertwine, just like people in Nunavut clothes in an attempt to keep warm. However, the combination of the vocals and multilayered arrangement result in melodic and memorable song with an important social message. 

Paniarjuk is a poignant song, as it’s based on a song Nancy’s late father created for the couple’s daughter and left on a message on their answering machine. This message gives way to an uptempo country arrangement. The fiddle combines with the rhythm section, while Andrew’s vocal is a mixture of power and passion. Later, it’s augmented by Nancy’s throating singing, before the probing bass and fiddle combine as the arrangement rebuilds. Soon, The Jerry Cans are in full flight. It’s a joy to behold, as the listener hears what they sound like live.

Tusaavit (Can You Hear Me?) is without doubt, one of the most moving and beautiful songs on Inuusiq. It features an underrated arrangement, where Andrew delivers an example of a song that adults create to sing to their own children. This is something that many people wouldn’t do nowadays. Thankfully, they still do in Iqaluit.

Just a lone giutar accompanies Andrew’s vocal on Isumagivappinnga a song about new love. Soon, though, the song bursts into life. The rhythm section provide the heartbeat,and with the accordion power the arrangement along. Meanwhile, the

the fiddle is the final piece of this musical jigsaw. It plays a starring in creating an irresistible backdrop for the vocal.  Harmonies accompany the vocal, while the drums never miss a beat. Along with the accordion and fiddle, they play their part in the sound and success of a song that’s one of the highlights of Inuusiq.

As the drums and bass underpin the arrangement to Anaanaga, the fiddle and accordion combine to create a multilayered arrangement before Andrew’s vocal enters. He delivers the lyrics to a song that’s dedicated to mothers everywhere. For most f the track, it’s an uptempo, rousing anthem. With a minute remaining, the song changes and the vocal gives way to the sounds of everyday life in Iqaluit.

Northern Lights closes Inuusiq, and the rhythm section combine with Nancy’s throat singing. Soon, Andrew’s vocal enters, and the rest of they band accompany him. This includes Nancy’s throat singing, before the song heads into anthem territory. By then, The Jerry Cans are fusing folk, country and indie rock. Still, the rhythm section power the arrangement along, while the fiddle adds a country influence. Spirited, singalong harmonies add the finishing touch to this moving, genre-melting anthem. The Jerry Cans it seems, have saved the best until last.

After eleven songs lasting nearly thirty-seven minutes, The Jerry Cans’ much-anticipated third album, Inuusiq is at end. Inuusiq will be released on the ‘5th’ of May 2017, on Aakuluk Music. Inuusiq is a very personal album, as it has been influenced and inspired by their life in Iqaluit, and the sounds of the environment around them. It gives voice to the struggle and joys of life in Iqaluit. However, Inuusiq is also an album that’s full of social comment. 

This includes songs about the recent Missing Women Inquiry and abusive relationships. There’s also a song reminding young people to focus on the beauty in their life, and a beautiful love song. Sometimes there’s an element of humour, on this genre-melting album.

Inuusiq finds The Jerry Cans combining elements of Celtic, country, folk and indie rock on what’s a musical potpourri. The music on Inuusiq ranges from beautiful, irresistible, joyous and uplifting, to ruminative and thought-provoking. When the tempo rises, hooks certainly haven’t been spared. The Jerry Cans combine a Celtic fiddle and accordion with their rhythm section. They provide the backdrop to Andrew Morrison’s vocals and Nancy Mike’s throat singing. It’s a potent and powerful combination, from The Jerry Cans and one that must be experienced firsthand. The way to do that is by buying The Jerry Cans’ forthcoming album Inuusiq, which isn’t just a guaranteed to get any party started, but is also a poignant, powerful and thought-provoking album.

The Jerry Cans-Inuusiq.

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