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Recording legend prepares new album
John Landry in the studio cutting nine new tracks

Daron Letts
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, January 23, 2010

NWT - Hinana Hoho Hine could be an anthem for the North. Recorded by Fort Providence songwriter Johnny Landry more than two decades ago, the upbeat song is derived from a prayer used by the Dene to thank the creator for their survival on the land.

NNSL photo/graphic

Johnny Landry and his wife Berna Landry visited Yellowknife earlier this month. The Fort Providence songwriter stepped on stage at the famed Gold Range to play a few songs, including his timeless Northern hit, Hinana Hoho Hine. Johnny was backed by his son, 25-year-old drummer William Landry. - Daron Letts/NNSL photo

"It took me about a year to get the song the way it is," Johnny Landry said. "It's an honour to be able to sing it for people."

He recorded the hit with Bill Carpenter, a Toronto music producer who lived in Fort Providence from 1982 to 1986. Landry credits carpenter for teaching him how to write songs.

"That song echoes from the past," said Johnny's wife, wife, Berna Landry. "It really makes you feel good about who you are. It really makes you think where you come from."

Johnny said Berna has inspired him to continue writing throughout his career.

"She helps me write in Slavey," he said.

For the last three years, the pair have worked together to add more songs to Johnny's original repertoire.

"Today our natural language is such a big issue," Berna said. "Through music John is promoting and enhancing our language."

Johnny is preparing to release a new album this spring. He recorded nine tracks with producer Dana Cross in Haywired Audio Productions in Hay River.

"They're a fusion of traditional Dene sounds with some classic country rock, giving it a contemporary feel," Cross said. "It's quite an emotional group of songs. We're in the mixing stage right now. It should be ready to go by spring."

Johnny's backing band in the studio is made up of Cross on bass and keyboard, guitarist Randy Randle and blues drummer Jim Constable.

"I like the honesty in Johnny's songs," Cross said. "He's singing about stuff we all can relate to. There is lots of integrity in his music."

Several of the songs, which are mostly sung in Slavey, thank elders and family. In the song Dene Konia, Johnny sings about the lifestyle choices of young people.

Johnny, who attended residential school in Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Fort Providence, quit drinking in 1993. He cites his relationship with elders as one of the influences that helped him heal and clean up.

"A lot of them inspired me to stop drinking alcohol and to carry on the message to the people," he said. "I learned how to pray in the traditional way. That helped me get to where I am today."

Now it is Johnny's turn to reach out to youth. He sings about Dene values of love, caring for the land, helping one another.

"I use the legends of the people to write songs," he said. Climate change is one of the of the themes emerging in some the latest songs Johnny is working on early this year.

"I've been going out on the land and I see it first hand the changes in the weather, the water, the animals," he said.

Johnny is hopes to play at this summer's Folk on the Rocks music festival in Yellowknife. He also hopes to release a compilation album later in the year to share some of his early classics from the 1980s. He is eager to thank Northerners for helping him open a career as a songwriter and performer.

"I want to thank all the people for supporting me all these years," Johnny said. "Especially my wife."

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