Running For The Drum - Buffy Sainte-Marie Album Review
Sixty seven year-old Canadian songbird returns after a 15 year absence.
Beverley (Buffy) Sainte-Marie will always be remembered for her stirring rendition of the title song from cult movie Soldier Blue featuring Candice Bergen, 1970.
Buffy was born on the Piapot Cree Indian reservation in Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan on August 2 1941. She was adopted by a white family.
Since she began her music career in the early 60s, she's been one of the most outspoken musicians of her generation singing about the plight of the native American Indian, to the extent that in the 60s US president Lyndon B. Johnson's government blacklisted her, (White House stationary recorded that her music "deserved to be suppressed").
She continued undaunted building a solid reputation on the folk scene in Canada and USA with luminaries such as Elvis, Bobby Darin, Streisand and Cher covering her songs.
Since then, she's broadened her repertoire considerably indulging in blues, country, rock, soundtracks and even pop, co-writing Oscar winning ballad Up Where We Belong (Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes from Office And A Gentleman). She's even added her own lyrics to the traditional America The Beautiful, which she sang at the NASA launch of the first Native American astronaut Commander John Herrington, included here.
The eclecticism continues on Running For The Drum, an album that covers 'issues' (she good at issues remember) such as greed on the atmospheric opening track - No No Keshagesh propelled by some mighty drum programming by Jim Birkett.
Follow-up Cho Cho Fire tells the tale of having fun and honours the time honoured tradition of a powwow, dressed by the chanting skills of the Black Lodge Singers. Buffy's idiosyncratic vibrato is on full throttle here. Further powwow samples cover the throbbing political rocker Working For The Government - a song about multi-national undercover uber-spooks and the money-laundering enterprise, called war.
Up to now it's been all-out-beats, but it's her return to her folk roots than make the biggest impression and impact, such as the stripped back Little Wheel Spin Spin, where she's playing guitar backed by ambient effects. Better still is the gorgeous tale of longing - Still This Love Goes On. This is definitely Buffy at her very best.
MOR torch song Too Much Is Never Enough, a reflective song about regret, is probably the album's emotional highpoint, dedicated to heroes and the ones than love them.
Bluesy ballad When I Had You is another standout track, and in fairness, considering she's not an out-and-out blues singer, she handles the lyrics beautifully without a hint of vibrato. Chris Birkett turns on the magic again with stunning guitar solos. She also shows a fine pair of tubes on Rockabilly blast Blue Sunday, a kind of tribute to Elvis's early sound.
The verdict - Welcome back Buffy.
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