John Angaiak is an Alaskan Native and I’m Lost in the City is his only album, recorded in 1971. It’s an album sung half in Yup’ik, half in English, but the whole album is in the style of American Folk- it’s just John and his acoustic guitar. It was written after his tour of duty in Vietnam, and it is expectedly tender.
The Yup’ik half of the album is a lyrically alien to me, however the tone and feeling that John Angaiak puts into his music is unmistakable. It’s a quiet and withdrawn sound, and quite mournful. He draws from old Blues musicians to make his sound, and I can hear other folk singers like Woodie Guthrie in there as well. Yup’ik is quite pleasant to the ears, but it often uses a “slssh” sound that is very unusual to me. John’s singing is very good, and he’s got quite a unique voice, and I think that’s the main draw of this album. The guitarwork is good but nothing spectacular, kind of standard for folk music.
The English half starts off with Sunday Morning, and his voice now seems much more unusual, probably just because of the accent. This confirms the contemplative and sad tone you hear on the first half of the album. Following that is the title track I’m Lost in the City. It’s a simple song but very accurately conveys the anxiety of being in an environment where you don’t know anyone. I don’t know if I’ll ever experience a culture shock like the difference between Indigenous Alaskan culture and modern Urban America. Hey, Hey, Hey Brother is probably my favorite on the album, John’s voice and guitar just sync up perfectly, especially the humming at the end. Just a tight simple song, and simple being an attribute you can put onto the whole album, but it’s not a complaint, it’s just how the songs are. I’d Walk A Mile For My Girl is almost creepy, with John breathing into the microphone between the “do do doo”s… maybe something lost in translation.
I absolutely recommend this album to fans of music history, music culture, and of course Folk fans. It’s not the most amazing Folk record I’ve heard, but it’s a very fun and interesting listen. I think with just the description you’ll know if you will want to check it out – it’s not going to make the lists of top Folk albums of all time, but if you collect music, this is one to grab. I really wish he had continued to make music, I think this album shows a lot of promise.