Dirty Words & Thoughts About Music

Brian Wright-McLeod
News From Indian Country 3-09

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Running for the Drum [Independent 2008]. Buffy Sainte-Marie’s long-awaited album, Running for the Drum, was launched at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in Toronto where she received the Lifetime Achievement recognition on November 30, 2008.

The long-awaited release turns out to be a blockbuster disappointment as the music tediously treads familiar ground with what seems to be nothing more than leftover beats and loops from her past two albums.

Lyrically, the songs are riddled with self-indulgent and condescending lyrics eschewing an endless litany of political clichés exemplified in her rendition of “America the Beautiful.” There is nothing new here on a project that should have been named Running for the ‘Off’ Button, and invariably stands a parody of the performer rather than an honest endeavor for her public.

Accompanying the 12-track album is the DVD documentary A Multimedia Life that follows Sainte-Marie’s career from her early folk music days in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The Joan Prowse production also includes archival footage of Bob Dylan and Peter LaFarge, interviews with Joni Mitchell, Robbie Robertson (The Band), and Randy Bachman (BTO). Overall, the CD/DVD package is something for the die-hard fan.

stevie_salas_be_what_it_is.jpgStevie Salas: Be What It Is [Arbor/EMI 2008]. Stevie Salas is perhaps the foremost Native rock artist currently working in the upper echelons of the major music industry, and to prove it, his newest venture will peel the paint off your walls! For those who missed the original Japanese import of this Stevie Salas joint, Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Arbor Records released a twelve-track North American version with new material.

The album opens with a track reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers crossed with a Funkaledic groove punctuated with Salas’s searing guitar work that transcends all others in the spectrum of funk/rock.

His hot rhythm and sassy lyrics progress throughout the disc with an electric staccato appeal accentuated with his trademark riffs. Album highlights include the mellow eight-minute epic “Two Souls War’n in a Bag of Skin” that aligns cosmically with the guitar constellations of Robin Trower and Jimi Hendrix; “Are the Gods Smiling at Me (Or Are They Laughing)” is executed with superbly orchestrated structure, while the electric lament “My Girl is Gone” stands as the album’s ballad.

The entire experience ebbs and flows with soft acoustic guitars to a sustained melodic thunder of pulsating rock.  There’s no denying that Salas has created a multi-dimensional sound that comes from stratospheric experiences by playing with some of the biggest names in the industry including Mick Jagger, Bootsy Collins, Rod Stewart and a raft of other stellar performers. Guest artists on the project include Matt Sorum, Brian Titchy and Dave Abbruzzese, drums; Jara Slapbak and Dorian Heartsong, bass; Ritchi Kotzen, Jason Paige and Gina Gershon, backup vocals.


status_x.jpgX-Status self-titled CD/DVD [Independent 2008]. A blistering heavy metal tornado called X-Status from Winnipeg, Manitoba, brings a Native message that slashes the air with unrelenting energy. Son of veteran blues artist Billy Joe Green (Ojibway), front-man Jesse Green has created a dominating sound. The album’s opening numbers, “Intro” and “Warpath” characterizes the X-Status sound similar to that of Testament or some other metal engine in both instrumental and vocal presence.

Their universal message is one of cultural revolution and resistance as found in songs like “Still Around.” Many of the numbers clock in at the three-minute mark with the exception of the six-minute “So Blind.” For fans of true metal music peppered with Indigenous elements, X-Status will not disappoint.

The accompanying DVD plays more like a rehearsal piece but good quality sound makes it easy to digest, even though the band’s presence is diminished by the lack of appropriate metal wardrobe. Casual attire aside, the piercing messages and mad musical skills cannot be ignored

The crew consists of Jesse Green, lead guitar/vocals; Natshia Moodie, lead vocals; Mike Bruyere (Eagle & Hawk), drums/vocals; Dave Beach, drums/vocals; Rikki Lee Green, bass; Dustin Moore, rhythm guitar.



welcome-to-your-rainy-day-by-tonemah_sj02cgsx4dix_216w_216h.jpgTonemah: Welcome to Your Rainy Day [Independent 2008]. It’s been some time since Darryl Tonemah (Kiowa/Comanche/Tuscarora) recorded an album, but this latest project is full of the old spark that illuminated his first issued more than a decade ago. Flush with his unique style, Tonemah presents both original material and covers of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and “You Don’t Get Much” by the BoDeans. The remaining nine songs are typical Tonemah magic that swings from melodic upbeat tempos such as “There’s a Train” to songs of hopeful emotions exemplified by the track “In Grace’s Eyes.”

The gentle acoustic resonance flows gracefully throughout the larger aspects of a full band without losing any of the direction that holds the album together from beginning to end.


philosophyforthemasses.jpgMarc Nadjiwan: Philosophy for the Masses [Independent 2008]. Claiming this most recent album to be his last recording project under the Nadjiwan mantle, Marc Nadjiwan (Ojibway) has realized the completion of this current musical path. While this is his self-proclaimed final album, Philosophy for the Masses punctuates the end of the Nadjiwan song-cycle with what unfortunately, seems to be his weakest outing to date. The album is flush with his signature sound but unfortunately hampered by repetitive melodies and a noticeable lack of bridges or any solid lead instrumental solos.

Nadjiwan’s trail of albums began in 1993, and fifteen years of hard work has taken him to the threshold of ambient/techno projects compellingly tagged as Quillbox and Le Bagerine; two exciting diversions from his usual songwriting talents.


demopossibilities.jpgSierra Noble: Possibilities [Independent 2008]. In a relatively short period of time, seventeen-year-old Sierra Noble has taken the world stage as a prominent Metis fiddle style artist. Her latest six-track platter contains none of the traditional flare that won her international acclaim but serves as a showcase for her ambitions to become a singer/songwriter – her attempt is adequate. With thoughtful lyrics and moody country love songs, the simple melodies and soft vocals attach easily to one’s ear.

Much of her stringed talent appears throughout the background of various tracks in an experimental capacity. The EPs only instrumental piece, “The Noble Duel,” marks a noticeable departure from her Metis fiddle roots to exploring the rock and fusion-jazz riffs of Ashley MacIsaac and Jean Luc Ponty.

Released as a single, the haunting fiddle solo, “The Warriors Lament” was co-written with Noble’s mentor, Metis fiddle legend John Arcand and G. Stobble. She performed the song on April 9, 2007, in France at the Vimy Ridge Canadian World War I memorial for the epic battle’s 90th anniversary. The entire event was released on DVD by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.



alluvia.jpgEvren Ozan: Alluvia [Independent]. Sixteen-year-old Evren Ozan picked up his first Native flute at the age of six and has been playing ever since. His latest recording displays a remarkable talent with a willingness to work with seasoned musicians. Alluvia is a seamless and uplifting album, where Ozan’s talent shines brightly throughout while employing teasing nuances of Native flute elements within world beat patterns.

Accompanying artists who also assisted in the songwriting include Marc Ritchy, acoustic guitar, bass, synth, bouzouki, percussion; Michael Daillak, percussion; Andrew Dow, bass; Simeon Darley-Chapin, percussion; Daniel Thompson, ambience.

Born in 1993 of mixed Anglo, Osage and Turkish ancestry, Ozan first studied Native flute under Guillermo Martinez and later, classical flute at the Berklee School of Music and Stanford University; he was also named a Davidson Fellow in Music.



northern_cree_red_rock.jpgNorthern Cree: Red Rock [Canyon Records]. Earning multi-nominations for major music industry awards that include the U.S. Grammy and the Canadian Juno, Northern Cree from Saddle Lake, Alberta, continues to command a dominant presence in the powwow music scene.

Founded by the Wood brothers in the 1990s, Northern Cree’s power and direction is fueled by years of experience passed on to newer members to create a perpetually young and exceptionally talented group. The album clocks in at sixty-two minutes with non-stop contemporary powwow songs including “Roads of Red” and “Bell Boy Hop.”


Industry Awards
Congratulations to Tom Wasinger (producer) for receiving the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Native American Music Album: Come to me Great Mystery (Various Artists) [Silver Wave Records].

Nominees included:
Kevin Yazzie: Faith [Canyon Records]; Bryan Akipa: Songs From The Black Hills [SOAR Corporation]; Black Lodge: Spo’Mo’Kin’Nan [Canyon Records] and Northern Cree: Red Rock [Canyon Records].

The following Aboriginal artists were nominated on February 3, 2009 for Canada’s national music industry recognition, the Juno Award.

Aboriginal Album of the Year:
Billy Joe Green: First Law of the Land [Americuse/Strongfront]; Buffy Sainte-Marie: Running for the Drum [Gypsy Boy/EMI]; Tanya Tagak: Auk ~ Blood [Jericho Beach/Outside]; Team Rez-Official: The World (And Everything in It) [Arbor/EMI]; Tracy Bone: No Lies [Arbor/EMI]

Music DVD of the Year: Buffy Sainte-Marie/Joan Prowse: A Multi-Media Life [Gypsy Boy/EMI]

New Artist of the Year:
Crystal Lynn Shawanda [Sony]

Country Recording Artist of the Year: Crystal Lynn Shawanda: Dawn of a New Day [Sony]

Instrumental Album of the Year: Tanya Tagak: Auk ~ Blood [Jericho Beach/Outside]

The awards will be presented on  March 28 & 29, 2009, in Vancouver, BC.

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