Okay, reader, you come to FAME to read critiques of music, but to properly address Jack Gladstone's work, a little history is necessary—or, more to the point, a little correcting of highly skewed White History is a must before we begin to lose the most necessary and rewarding aspect of art: awareness. Thus, let me remind all and sundry, most of whom I will assume are unacquainted with Russ Means or any of the many Native critics of the American revisionist record, that the Native peoples were here before us—and by 'us', I mean *everyone* who is non-Native. A well-documented near-genocide gained 'us' our glorious capitalist democracy now drowning on its knees for innumerable sins (I'm an atheist and don't believe in this sin nonsense, but it nonetheless applies), the rapacious savaging of the Native tribes most likely the germ seed of everything. Damn near nothing has been done to set the record straight, even in normally rebellious rock musics (there are, after all, precious few songs to accompany Manna's Red Man), and, thus, work like Jack Gladstone's is endlessly valuable, even more so because he eschews Means' more Alex Jonesy radicality (and one cannot help but like Jones and Means a lot despite and because of that) in favor of a Humanism that ran deeply in Native philosophies long before the Brits, Spaniards, Nordics, and cartels of the rest of the barbarians arrived.
In such ancient Humanism is where this singer-player-composer, 'Montana's Blackfeet Troubador', transcends the illusions of such polarizing concepts as differentiated race and has become a committed and highly social activist on behalf of all Native concerns—non-Native as well, it should strongly be noted—a gent who delivers talks in the national parks above and beyond his excellent music, and a man who disembars no one, including the Europeans who cast such misery upon Natives. He does this while hedging not an inch on the truth. Why, I wonder—I, who have written in Left venues and know it to be a fact—why have so few taken up such a crucial subject as this as we scramble to rescue our Republican-ruined culture, many criminalities dawning on us but zero heed paid to the first sin? The moment would certainly appear to be right for it.
Native Anthropology is as imbued with positivity and hope as it is with the blood and tear-stained record of the white man's advent upon the continent. This latest sonic chapter in the ongoing process offers, as the CD's sub-title tells us, 'Challenge, Choice, and Promise in the 21st Century'. Noted in my earlier reviews (here and here), Gladstone possesses a singing and playing style very similar to Gordon Lightfoot's. This aspect cultivated the first affinity I formed for his music, nor are Jack's socio-political rebukes that much unlike Lightfoot's own in many ways…sans Gordo's perennial love for predominant melancholy. Gladstone's lighter-hearted but highly integrated style has attracted many admirers, including the phenomenal Lloyd Maines, who's played with him previously, R. Carlos Nakai and Phil Aaberg here, and quite a few others. Thus, not a cut goes in the least wanting artistically and, while being entertained, listeners are educated and hopefully brought a step closer to feeling the urgent need for a unity that must occur among all people lest karma slay us indiscriminately.
The backbone of the folk/Native/roots/soft rock Anthropology is the example of Private Louis Charlo, USMC, a Montana Native who helped raise the famed flag at Iwo Jima and was just one of an influx of indigenous men composing the highest rate of volunteerism among minorities in the U.S. in the 20th century. Not long after that historic W.W.II heralding of Old Glory, a fellow Marine, one of Charlo's buddies, Ed McLaughlin, was downed. We know the Marine code, and, as Charlo rushed to rescue McLaughlin to safety, he was cut down by machine-gun fire. This warrior was 18 at the time and had years earlier, while a minor, pleaded with his mother to be allowed to join the Corps. That memorial song, Remembering Private Charlo, is followed by a Native rendition of the traditional Turkey in the Straw, here ironically retitled Wild Turkey and delivered in a Native tempo and mode very strongly inferring a coming together of the continent's cultures, highly attractive aurally, a joyous full-spirited fusion of styles. The entire CD is very much like all that, and Gladstone's ability to locate ongoing Native influence in non-Native artifacts throughout the land reflects his acute sensitivity to what should be as he contemplates what is and laments what was.
I apologize if this review isn't more incisively centered on musical aesthetics, but Jack Gladstone has, through persistence and a refusal to depart from rock-solid verity, found himself, his concerns, and his philosophy very much of-the-moment and to a degree that few could have predicted. Unless you've foolishly fallen in love with the jackal regimes the white ruling class has wreaked upon this hemisphere and now the world, it's time we finally began to listen to the cultures that inspired, but unfortunately didn't much infect, our Founders via credos understood as being even more Democratic than the Grecian antecedents the colonials relished theretofore. Maybe a lot more of us are ready now. I sure as hell am and have been for more years than I care to count. The capitalist nightmare has gotten very very very old, hasn't it? Yes, it has, and I think you'll find Jack's Rainbow Medley blend of Somewhere over the Rainbow, What a Wonderful World, and Let it Be particularly touching and almost unbearably timely for that very reason.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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