“Wolves Don't Live by the Rules”

by Jim Di Gioia

April 25, 2018

Regardless of what reality television tries to tell us, there are no rules for human survival. When your continued existence is predicated on your response to external forces, you do whatever you have to do to preserve your life. “Wolves Don’t Live by the Rules” is Inuk-Montrealer Elisapie’s paean to human survival, inspired by the life of Inuk folk singer Willie Trasher. During a period of artistic block, Elisapie decided that the best way to regain her creative spirit was to stop writing and focus instead on listening to “old folk music from home, songs I’d listened to as a kid, songs that made me who I am.”

That survivalist instinct, informed by Trasher’s experience in a residential school and the loss of his language and traditions, gallops through “Wolves Don’t Live by the Rules”, which features guitarist-singer Joe Grass, Nicholas Basque of Plants & Animals on guitar, Patrick Watson’s Robbie Kuster on drums, and saxophonist Jason Sharp, joining Elisapie on the spirited recording, reminiscent of an impromptu campfire collaboration. For the accompanying video, Elisapie collected archival footage taken in northern communities throughout the 60s, documenting “the winds of change descending upon the Inuit community at that time.” It is an arresting visual, contrasting the swift current of shifting traditions and the erasure of culture and language against the growing reclamation of indigenous cultures, language, and pride of heritage.

Jim Di Gioia

Jim founded the music blog Quick Before It Melts in 2006 and was its principal writer until 2016, when its decade-long run ended 10 years to the day it started. DOMINIONATED is its spiritual successor. Jim currently serves as a Polaris Music Prize jurist and Prism Prize jurist.
Jim Di Gioia

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