Buffy Sainte-Marie has been running for the drum practically her whole life, pursuing its internal call to life, love, independence, creativity and activism. That drumbeat has led her to multiple careers and finally drew her back into the recording studio to create Running for the Drum, her first new recordings since 1996.
Since the CD’s release, it has earned Buffy her second Juno Award (the Canadian Grammy) for Best Aboriginal Album, the Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Award (ABCMA) for Best Album, and within the last month Buffy took home four Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards for Best Female Artist, Best Album, Best Single (“No No Keshagesh” – watch the video below) and Best Songwriter. Buffy also became the first person to win the APCMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was the 25th inductee into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Since her recording debut 45 years ago, Sainte-Marie’s original songs have attracted cover versions by artists including Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Janis Joplin, Cher, Roberta Flack, Neko Case, Courtney Love, and seemingly half the folksingers of the 1960s. Her co-written “Up Where We Belong,” the theme from the 1982 movie An Officer and a Gentleman, won her an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.
The multi-talented Sainte-Marie recently shifted her focus from her work as a visual and digital artist, an educator, and a Native American sociopolitical activist to record Running for the Drum in her home studio in Hawaii. With musician Chris Birkett as her co-producer, as he was on her last two CDs, including Up Where We Belong (1996), Buffy crafted eleven original songs and an expanded version of “America the Beautiful” into what she calls her “usual whiplash collection of many styles – pop, protest, country, rock, dance-remix, rockabilly and big love songs.”
Using electronic samples and drum programming as well as more conventional instruments, primary musicians Buffy (keyboards, percussion, guitar) and Birkett (guitars, bass, percussion) match their music to Buffy’s eclectic songs. Her contemptuous putdowns of corporate greed (“No No Keshagesh,” which Buffy performs in a new video posted on YouTube) and the political establishment (“Working for the Government”) are set to whirling electronica and wailing “powwow” vocals, as is the jubilant “Cho Cho Fire.” There are contrastingly gentle arrangements of love songs “Too Much is Never Enough” and “Still This Love Goes On”; a boisterous “I Bet My Heart on You” features Buffy and guest Taj Mahal dueting on pianos; the quietly comforting “Easy Like the Snow Falls Down”; an amped Elvis approach to “Blue Sunday,” and appropriately acoustic treatments of “America the Beautiful,” outfitted with new lyrics to reflect the Native American community, and a lovely re-recording of a Sainte-Marie classic, “Little Wheel Spin and Spin.”