You gotta be kiddin' me! Buffy Sainte-Marie is now 68 years old, looking like she's 45, sounding 30, and with the kind of energy and fire a 20 year old would envy. She can boast a catalogue of 17 studio releases, four anthologies, and a Live at Carnegie Hall that has yet to see the light of day (criminal!). Her music has been covered by such luminaries as Janis Joplin, Chet Atkins, Elvis, Cher, Donovan, Quicksilver Messenger Service, etc. She and her compositions have also appeared in films, television, at the Kennedy Space Center, and…well, I'd have to write paragraph after paragraph after paragraph to list all her achievements both musical and humanitarian, but didja know that she wrote Universal Soldier and co-wrote Up Where We Belong? S'true, she did, alongside a passel of great material besides.
And it's that humanitarian streak sitting astride her music which has always won her the affection of audiences since hitting the scene in 1962. Now, 47 years later, she's every bit as much in her powers as in that halcyon and turbulent era. Backed by a crackerjack outfit—and even Taj Mahal on one track—she serves up a dozen excellent tracks, a few of which will definitely see coverage well into the future, especially Too Much is Never Enough, an extremely catchy ditty.
A gratifying fusion of Native rhythms and philosophy pervade much of this CD, and they're a very welcome element, a whole dimension of something scamped by modern rockers, folkers, and jazz musicians even though the sonorities preceded all other arts on this continent. More, her gentle, warm, and peaceful heart invite comparisons to Jack Gladstone (here) and the timeless but ignored idea that the Native and invading cultures need to come together and reconcile injustices older than the birth of America itself. That this has not even been superficially approached yet is a scar upon the country, upon history, and an insult to intelligent life everywhere. Hopefully, advocates like her and Jack (and Russell Means) will succeed in seeing this mission come to fruition within our lifetimes (and, beyond that, I sure as hell would like to see them work together on a song or two—better, an entire CD).
But Buffy hasn't given up her protestations either, as the excoriative Working for the Government well demonstrates. In a true Left spirit, she knows precisely where all her emotions properly lie and wastes no time giving them voice. The CD rocks and swings with a cajun / bayou / country / rock vivacity and a generous helping of female soul. With the CD, though, comes a DVD documentary featuring industry heavyweights Robbie Robertson, Joni Mitchell, John Kay, Taj Mahal, Eric Anderson, Sylvia Tyson, Floyd Westerman, and Randy Bachman as well as one of America's icon comedians: Bill Cosby, all reminiscing on their decades-long admiration for her work…and, man, was it good to see John Kay again! This isn't, however, one of those 3 or 4 video compilations oft tucked into the release as an extra goodie but instead an excellent chronology of Buffy's life, art, ways, and spirit, a full hour by Joan Prowse and coverage that's long, long long overdue.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles