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These guys dig their roots

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Dec 17/04) - What do Cracker Cats, an Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir and Blue Tundra have in common?

Music, semi-obscurity and the fact they are among 90 groups vying for 15 spots on an upcoming National College and Community Radio Association-sponsored compilation CD, featuring independent music from across Canada.

And what does all of this have to do with Inuvik?

The duo Blue Tundra features the musical styling of two local songwriters, Mike Whiteside and Bob Mumford.

"I was listening to Norbert Poitras on the radio and he was talking about this contest, which up to that point had no representation from the Northwest Territories region," said Whiteside, talking about why they entered the contest.

"So I called Bob up and said, 'why don't we enter a song?'"

Mumford went to work writing a brief biography, snapped a picture of himself and Whiteside and, with the click of a computer mouse, put their song into cyberspace and into contention.

"We've never been considered on a national basis before, only on a regional basis, but maybe not even that," Whiteside said modestly, with a laugh.

Flight of the Great Snowy Owl, the song they entered into the 'Dig Your Roots' contest, is not a new tune. It was first recorded by Blue Tundra in 1994.

The song was included on the group's first and only CD, Cat's Out of the Bag.

According to Whiteside, the music enjoyed some public exposure at the Northern Store until "Somebody complained about lyrical content."

Fortunately, the contest has resurrected at least one of the CDs tracks - an up-tempo instrumental - and in the meantime has inspired the two musicians.

"It's making me think we need a Web site now," said Mumford, noting that most of their competition already have an Internet promotional portal.

The Inuvik musicians have discovered some distinguished regional company in the Dig Your Roots contest. Northern Band, featuring Fort Rae singer-songwriter Jesse James Gon, has added its name and an original song to the roster of talent to be considered.

But the competition doesn't seem to faze Mumford or Whiteside, both avid music fans who are happy to be amongst like-minded music-makers.

"You've gotta check out this song by The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir," Whiteside said.

"It's awesome - nice and raw. This band would be fun to hang out with."

Judging for the Dig Your Roots compilation will take place in the new year and the CD is expected out in March 2005.

If Whiteside and Mumford are lucky, they just might be hanging out with The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir, as the winning entries will be asked to perform on a five-date concert tour.