Crooked Trail Band
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Crooked Trail Band

Saint Catharines, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Saint Catharines, Ontario, Canada | SELF
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DON FRASER
Spectrum - Friday, June 15, 2007 Updated @ 6:53:17 AM
The band name describes the winding paths its members have travelled in their lives. It's also a loose Mohawk translation for the city of St. Catharines and zig-zagging St. Paul Street - a former native American pathway - that snakes through it.
Crooked Trail, which dubs itself Niagara's only native rock band, is a featured musical act at Saturday's Art of Peace Festival in Montebello Park. The arts and music festival marries themes of peace and social justice in a downtown St. Catharines event that runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Phil Davis, Crooked Trail's Mohawk guitarist and vocalist, said his band's roots extend to a Niagara Regional Native Centre powwow about four years ago.
Davis and Rick McLean - an employment counsellor whose passion is guitar, vocals and keyboard - realized that as rock 'n' roll journeymen native Americans, they had much in common.
"By meeting this way every week, we really got to know each other," Davis, 44, said in an interview from his Ridgeway home.
"We started talking about music and realized we also have a similar background in our tastes," he said.
Soon, two other members with native connections joined their musical path.
One is Guelph resident Sandy Horne - vocals and bass, - who was a member of the chart-topping 1980s Canadian band The Spoons.
Horne, an accountant, also runs a sweatlodge near her home.
Drummer and vocalist Shawn Wheeler of St. Catharines is a veteran musician and sound engineer. Wheeler and his brothers are well-known in the local music scene.
Taken together, the combined style of the Fort Erie-based outfit is about experimentation and reaching out, Davis said.
There's also a spiritual link to their contemporary music style and participating in powwow drumming, described by Davis as a form of praying to people living and departed.
"We're told we sing and dance for people who aren't capable of doing it," he said. "It's a very community-based approach and the songs are very spiritual.
It's that element, he said, that is injected into their social songwriting, which confronts serious issues facing the native community.
Crooked Trail plays steady gigs at Ridgeway's Restaurant, gauging public reaction to their songs and tweaking their performances along the way.
"We'll ask them right out, 'Did you like that one, what did you think?' We have a mixed (native and non-native) audience and they've liked what our songs are about," Davis said.
After winning over audiences there and at other venues, the band released its first CD, Red Road, last year. Many of its tunes speak to historical concerns and challenges facing urban native Americans. Sister Away, for example, touches on the tragedy of Helen Betty Osborne, a 19-year-old Cree woman who was raped and murdered in The Pas, Man. in 1971. Four young white men were implicated in her death, but only one was charged 16 years later. It also refers to the numerous women in Canada who have gone missing since Osborne's killing - many of them native.
Issues like violence, the environment and native land claims need to be aired out, and music is an excellent forum, said Davis, who is doing his bachelor of arts at Brock University in aboriginal adult education.
"I know Rick McLean and I both agree that the politics of our community has always been part of our lives and nature," he said. In the Iroquois confederacy, for example, there were highly-evolved political ways of accommodating its sometimes disparate society.
"You can't separate politics and our spirituality," Davis said. "They go hand in hand."
That's why a thematic event like Art of Peace is a natural fit for Crooked Trail, he said: "We try to get connected to those things that are like-minded with our material and our approach to creating music.
"We're building bridges about what we are as native people with the rest of the community," Davis said.
And native concerns are on the front-burner, with issues like the inquiry into the shooting death of native protester Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park, and ongoing land disputes in places like Caledonia and Prince Edward County.
"I've been to Caledonia a few times myself," Davis said. "It's sad that it has to come to this type of situation.
"It's obviously a financial burden for people involved in both sides and it creates a lot of racial unrest and bad feelings." In Davis' view, conflicts between native and non-native people are not inevitable. "To me, it seems people can accept other people's ways better now than they used to. "We're getting a lot of support for our land dispute in Caledonia - I never saw that when I was younger. As long as we're respectful of each other, there's a solution."
- St.Catherines Standard


Discography

Crooked Trail 2, 2009 (purchase through CDbaby.com) includes 13 new songs!

Red Road 2006 (purchase through CDbaby.com)
Includes the songs Red Road, Sister Away, Long Time, Feelin' Fine and Good Medicine.

www.myspace.com/CrookedTrailBand
www.CDBaby.com to purchase

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Bio

Buy the New 13 Song Full Length CD

Crooked Trail 2

Order here or at CD Baby

Also Found at Fine Stores

Who writes songs that speak for us and about us as the Original Peoples of this land? This is one question that we, Phil Davis and Rick McLean, asked back in 2002 after getting to know each other better at our weekly community Pow-wow drum circle and came to discover that we were also experienced road musicians and prolific writers. This was the birth of Crooked Trail, which is in part derived from the Mohawk name of the city, St. Catharines (it is a crooked house), where we first began working together. It is also a name that denotes the nature of our lives -- a weaving path as we try to find our way back home. Since recording our first CD in 2006, Crooked Trail has won over audiences from both native and non-native venues alike.