Amidst all the hype surrounding the superstars nominated for and performing on the Grammy Awards on Monday night, chances are you haven’t been exposed to one Canadian nominee, Kevin Howes. He has received his first Grammy nomination in the Historical Album category. This is a recognition of his acclaimed work for the album Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, And Country 1966-1985, a compilation on the Light in the Attic Records label that has earned international praise.
In an interview with the National Music Centre website, Howes explained that “Native North America is an archival music project that I brought to Seattle and Los Angeles-based Light in the Attic Records back in 2009. The idea was to create a series of much needed compilations and album reissues that would help to raise awareness and celebrate the legacy of trailblazing Indigenous singers, songwriters, poets, and musicians from Canada, the United States, Mexico, and Greenland who were cutting vinyl records during the 1960s-80s.”
A pleasing byproduct of the success of Native North America is that it has boosted the careers of some of the featured artists. As Howes told nmc.ca, “I’ve been able to help get some of these veteran artists on stage and performing for fans old and new. Last winter, I organized Native North America gatherings with Duke Redbird and Willie Thrasher in Toronto and Vancouver respectively and hope to do more events featuring some of the other artists on the compilation.”
International praise for his work as a musical archivist is not new to Howes. He earlier worked with Light in the Attic on a six-album series called Jamaica-Toronto, one documenting the musical migration from the Caribbean to Canada in the 1960s and 1970s.
When asked by nmc.ca to define his musical roles, Howes stated “I am a 40-year-old Vancouver-based reissue producer, Canadian music/culture historian, vinyl archivist, DJ [under the name Sipreano], blogger, and journalist. Music is my life and my goal is to document, preserve, and champion marginalized, yet still pertinent vintage music with people around the world. I do this by immersing myself in sound, hitting the road, and connecting with people and their stories. The songs are only a part of the equation here. I’ve been doing this work for over 20 years now and I feel blessed to have interacted with so many incredible creators in my travels.”
Perhaps on Monday he can add ‘Grammy winner’ to his resume. Intriguingly, he is facing stiff competition from two Canadians in the same category. Jan Haust (compilation producer) and Peter J. Moore (mastering engineer) are cited for their work on the Bob Dylan And The Band collection, The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11.