Nine times lucky? Alberta’s Northern Cree takes another shot at Grammy gold

'It's giving us an opportunity to get recognition for our music'

Northern Cree performs at the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Matt Sayles/The Canadian Press)

Even the biggest pop stars might want to clear the Grammy Awards red carpet on Sunday when Northern Cree arrive dressed to impress.

It’s the ninth time Alberta’s Indigenous singing group is nominated at music industry’s biggest night, and co-founder Steve Wood says he’s planning a few surprises. Among them, expect members of the 17-person act to sport traditional Cree designs that could easily overshadow the edgy threads worn by Shawn Mendes and Lil Nas X.

“Even if you’re famous, you don’t want to be next to us on the red carpet,” Wood says with a chuckle on the phone from Maskwacis, Alta.

“Taking nothing away from any of the artists, what I’m saying is that people are always looking for something they haven’t seen before.”

Running zero for eight

Since the group’s first nomination in 2001, the 58-year-old leader of Northern Cree has become somewhat of an expert in grabbing attention on the red carpet.

A couple years ago, the act wowed onlookers when they pulled up wearing vibrant beaded vests, a sharp break from the steady flow of black tuxedos and designer looks on the carpet. Northern Cree didn’t win the Grammy that year, but they had everyone talking.

This year, they’re nominated in the best regional roots category with their 40th album, When It’s Cold – Cree Round Dance Songs, a collection of tracks that acknowledge the good times (The Hippity Hoppity) and the hardships (To All MMIW) a tribute to missing and murdered Indigenous women).

Their Grammy category is stacked with other favourite contenders, including six-time Hawaiian nominee Amy Hanaiali’i and Rebirth Brass Band, a past winner from New Orleans.

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