Personnel: Jerry Alfred (vocals, acoustic guitar, drums); Bob Hamilton (vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar, bouzouki, mandolin); Andrea McColeman (vocals, accordion, keyboards, marimba); Kim Barlow (vocals).
Recording information: Old Crow Recording Studios, Whitehorse, Yukon, OK.
Unknown Contributor Role: Gary Comeau.
Nenda? is more than just a refinement of the sound Jerry Alfred pioneered on his debut; it's an expansion. The sense of space is still quite palpable on songs, like the opening "Beware" (where a xylophone comes as a surprise), but he can also make something that sounds like old-time on "Homeless," where a fiddle comes out of nowhere to turn something serious into a dance with a deep heart. The record also takes more of an acoustic turn than its predecessor, and the vague Dylan-ish influence on parts of Etsi Shon arrives more full-blown here; the title track has whiffs of "Lay Lady Lay" behind it, and the descending arpeggios of "Beware" are eerily reminiscent of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home." When he and the Medicine Band do strike a solid rock groove on "Another Love Song," it's more rooted than Robbie Robertson's ventures into Native music -- perhaps because Alfred himself is more rooted and isolated. Indeed, the best pieces here are the ones which hew closest to tradition, such as "McQuestion Rive Stick Gambling Song," where the thump of the drum behind voice could also be a powwow song. Of course, he hasn't abandoned the atmospherics that helped make his debut so remarkable, but they're used sparingly, which gives more impact when they appear on "Haven't I Told You?" So, while it might not be as focused as his first effort, Alfred's work on Nenda? is that of someone on a quest, following his vision and making it into music, growing and developing. ~ Chris Nickson