Many degress, Tonemah still holds small town view

By Michelle R. Shining Elk
Special to News From Indian Country 7-09

Darryl Tonemah, Ph.D, M.Ed aka Tonemah had no idea that when he began writing songs while in college that several years later his singer/songwriting talent has lead him to hundreds of performances and garnered him award-nominations, radio, TV appearances, and awards.

But it did! And now, four CDs later, Tonemah has released his fifth CD “Inkblots & Random Thoughts.”

No matter the number of degrees, awards or appearances, Tonemah still holds on to his small town Midwestern points-of-view that fuel his organic storytelling style; a storytelling style that has become his trademark.

Tonemah’s life experiences of growing up on, and off, reservations coupled with his professional undertakings have given Tonemah a truly unique perspective that he brings to his songwriting.

When talking about what prompted the making of his latest CD “Ink Blots and Random Thoughts” Tonemah stated, “I have had the blessing of seeing and experiencing a lot of things since the last CD (“Welcome to Your Rainy Day”) – some great, some heartbreaking, some funny – I had started writing song ideas, and lines, and chord progressions, and drum patterns on pieces of paper I had in my pocket; somehow, they all managed to end up in the back seat of my car... when I couldn’t fit anything else back there, I figured it was time to record. Which was great… now, I have a new CD AND a clean car!”

As with Tonemah's previous releases, “Ink Blots & Random Thoughts,” possesses Tonemah’s honest singing style with honest lyrics that cut to the heart of the matter: “It is a challenge trying to put everything I want to say or express into a three minute song. I wanted to write this CD more efficiently than in the past. I thought it was important that each line was significant. Kind of like a movie short. In a movie short everything on screen has some symbolic value. I used a lot of metaphors while writing this CD to get the most mileage from each line.”

Like his last CD, Tonemah made the trip to Nashville, TN to record “Ink Blots” allowing him to incorporate some of Nashville's finest session players and together they produced another truly heartfelt piece of music – touching on feelings and experiences inherent in everyone. Tonemah is, at times; the Trickster; the son; the father; and, at times, the seeker - but he is always a storyteller. A storyteller, who offers meaning where the listener needs to find it. “In all the years I've performed with Darryl, one thing has always been evident, Darryl’s songs touch people on a very personal level.” states Tonemah guitarist Ed Koban.

Tonemah has been receiving airplay in dozens of local markets throughout the US, Canada & even Alaska. A singer/songwriter in the purist sense, Tonemah combines the energy of rock, the intelligence of folk and the heart of country, to create a musical niche he calls, “Native Americana.” In 2009 French record label, Dixie Frog Records, included the song “There’s a Train” from the “Welcome to Your Rainy Day,” as part of their compilation CD entitled, “Indian Reservation Blues,” a multi-disc release that included other Native American Musicians.

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