Release Date: Aug 11, 2009
Record label: Appleseed
Genre(s): Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Buffy Sainte-Marie has always been a good deal more versatile as a musician than most people realize, roaming through folk, blues, country, pop, and even pioneering electronica on her various albums, always using her Cree ancestry as an anchor, and very few singers have dealt with cultural polemics as intelligently as she has. Perhaps because of her restless drive to try new forms, Sainte-Marie's albums are often woefully (but endearingly) erratic and inconsistent, but each contains hidden gems, and while her eerie, vibrato-laden singing style can sound affected at times, her drive to constantly pull her agenda into new musical territories is inspiring. Running for the Drum is her first new album in 17 years, and while it probably won't change anyone's attitudes about her work, it wonderfully spotlights all of the musical themes, forms, and concerns she's pursued in the past four decades.
As you start listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s first new album in 13 years, the pow-wow vocal backing on the opening tracks “No No Keshagesh” and “Cho Cho Fire” remind you that she’s the famous Native American activist folk singer from the ‘60s who wrote such eloquent tribal songs as “Where the Buffalo Roam”. By the time you get to the third cut, “Working for the Government”, you listen to the cutting lyrics about the abuses of power by our political entities and remember, oh yeah, she’s the person who also wrote that timeless anti-war protest tune “Universal Soldier”, made famous by the British pop star Donovan. But then she covers an old song she penned back in the day, “Little Wheel Spin and Spin”, and the delicate wordplay stirs up memories that she was one of the early singer-songwriters who knew how to weave poetic and literate verses into a beautiful tapestry.