Kicking off #BlackHistoryMonth with this remembrance of Drum & Spear bookstore+press, co-founded & run by my parents in Washington, DC (with an outpost in Tanzania) along with their dear #SNCC veteran / Civil Rights Movement friends of Afro-American Resources, Inc. — including our cited neighbors of Adams-Morgan & Mt. Pleasant, writer/journalist Uncle Charlie (Cobb) & my girlhood idol in black boho Judy Richardson. This article below by a Maryland scholar interested in activist entrepreneurial projects of the Long Sixties traces their beginnings in that august revolutionary year of 1968. From DC to Dar-es-Salaam, they did great thangs that have continued to have a big influence on me as I navigate creative & activist spaces; I am very proud of their achievements — especially with my dear mother now gone to the Spirit World. Someday, I shall still replicate what I grew up dreaming about Drum & Spear as a creative entrepreneur in my own right…
Yours In Struggle, K* #DaughterOfTheDream #BlackPower50
A shoutout from California Coastopia from one of the Drum & Spear Circle, Daphne Muse (via my twin sister’s Facebook): So proud to have served as a manager of Drum and Spear and serve an incredible community of people throughout DC, across the country and around the world. I worked with an intellectually fierce group of people including Charlie Cobb, Courtland Cox, Juadine Henderson, Jennifer Lawson, Judy Richardson, Ralph Featherstone, Joe Gross, Freddie Biddle, Don Brown, Williard Taylor. Anne Holloway, Marvin Holloway and Mimi Shaw Hayes were the driving forces behind the parent company AAR and Drum and Spear Press. All, so committed to LIBERATION.
Gene Clark, a Native son of Tipton, Missouri, was a brilliant singer/songwriter/folkie who attained global fame for a spell in the 1960s as a member of The Byrds. Then, after quitting the band at the height of their acclaim — leaving them with the amazing “Eight Miles High — Gene embarked on a long & often turbulent solo career until his untimely death right after I moved UpSouth. Thus I never got to see him live, much to my regret. Yet each & ev’ry day I flash on him & his Creation, usually keeping a lot of his collaboration with my favorite banjoist, Doug Dillard (also now gone to Glory), in heavy rotation. One of my most beloved of Gene’s songs he cut with The Gosdin Brothers backing him – “So You Say You Lost Your Baby;” I also spin his masterpiece No Other a great deal. “One In A Hundred” and “Life’s Greatest Fool” are other key tunes of his for me. Someday, I will feel brave enough to share my ode to him, which I composed out of my time dwelling in the Ozarks in Missouri, called “Tipton Bramble.”
Today’s Gene Clark’s bornday, so re-sharing the column I wrote on him a couple years back which foregrounded his Native American heritage (which many don’t know about) & also featured an interview with my Cosmic California musician/surfer friend Brent Rademaker of Beachwood Sparks & now GospelBeach: THIS BYRD DONE FLOWN AGAIN by KANDIA CRAZY HORSE
( GENE CLARK, POST-FLYTE )
Also found out last night that rare country-rock specialist label Sierra Records has issued Gene Clark – The Lost Studio Sessions 1964-1982 > So will get that in my #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth rotation fo’sho’! – A’ho*
(Dillard & Clark)
Well, since my sentiments about the state of Nashville’s country music establishment on and beyond Music Row tend to be unwelcome even amongst my former circle of rock critic colleagues, I wasn’t going to weigh in on this year’s CMA Awards, the 50th edition, which I did happen to watch. However, in my absence offline, an apparent controversy has been brewing on the subject of race and country music, due to the much ballyhooed performance of “Daddy Lessons” by Texan artists Beyonce (pop, urban) & the Dixie Chicks (once modern country royalty). Although I don’t wish to gas up TMZ, the site is one of the prominent places that has cited the CMA site & social media having scrubbed their entire online platform of images/references to said Beyonce-Dixie Chicks summit in response to copious racist reactions to the awards show appearance on Twitter & elsewhere: VIEW HERE
Now, I am no Beyonce fan nor “stan;” and I have no fear of the BeyHive in stating this — my backpages as a longtime music critic & editor for over 20 years clearly delineates where I stand on her & chronicles many of my thoughts on the history and contemporary scene of black artists who create in the overlapping country & western, bluegrass, hillbilly, Cajun, prewar stringband, mountain music, Americana, and roots genres. I also happen to have served on a panel @ CUNY Graduate Center in NYC earlier this year, holding forth on Black Banjo, my role in the country & western genre as an artist and touring fan, the Affrilachia movement, and the recent publication of scholar/banjoist Laurent Dubois’ book THE BANJO – America’s African Instrument. Talked about the fictional Darlings of The Andy Griffith Show a.k.a. The Dillards, and how Doug Dillard became my favorite banjo player and influence via Dillard & Clark. And I am a veteran of my friend Greg Mays’ annual Harlem Hoedown, where I always square dance as I learned as a babychile in rural Virginia to the sounds of my dear friends the Ebony Hillbillies. I was a “primordial” adopter, supporter, and then critic of the Americana scene in general, way back into the 1980s, and have watched successive waves of cowpunk, neo-southern rock, alt-country, y’allternative, insurgent country, progressive country, Ameripolitan, indie folk, etc etc come to consciousness and come to market; and always pondered about the African presence in all of these scenes and on the record business side up to this day where Americana is now on the Billboard chart — the year’s big news in music. The pop/urban mix with country as a featured event of the CMA Awards has obvious precedent; many of my former colleagues are still talking about Justin Timberlake (who’s in the process of going Country & recording a country album) performing with Chris Stapleton last year. Yet this year’s turn, especially at the 50 marker, is notable less due to Beyonce but rather down to the fact that at a time when Bro-Country is waning, Taylor Swift has defected for pop, and nigh every classic arena rocker has cut a country record/moved to Nashville to revive flagging careers, country (&western) still has a glaring race problem and its related business wing cannot develop or sustain virtually any artists of color not named Darius Rucker. Opening the show with a too-brief turn by black country icon Charley Pride underscored this issue; the fact that the CMAs chose to have Stapleton and Dwight Yoakam — great & skilled though they are — pay homage to Georgia R&B hero & country maverick Ray Charles, to illustrate the S-O-U-L of country music instead of even summoning their own recent hitmaker Mickey Guyton or Americana star Rhiannon Giddens who was present at the awards (backing up Eric Church) showed exactly where they stand. The citing of SOUL, as it always has been, is code for the blackness in twang; the modern country (&western) scene and business has never quite progressed beyond the early 20th century moment of Race Records and segregating sounds by racial and regional provenance. And all hell broke loose on social media yesterday and today, as country music fans of the dominant culture rushed to show their displeasure with the inclusion of a black (pop) artist on the CMAs, accusing her of trying to take away country music from whites who supposedly have eternal ownership of the genre — despite the patent & well-documented African and Native American origins of country besides the Scotch-Irish contribution. I myself am a Native Americana / cosmic country & western artist in no small part because I am of Native American, African, and Scottish descent, a rich hybrid made in America’s Southeast from which the Source of the music eternally springs. I am also just a fanatic of bluegrass, mountain music, and cowboy tunes — and I claim as much ownership of that Creation as anybody. Keen observers have known for a spell that one of the most vibrant bluegrass scenes in the world is in Japan, and that events and festivals like the Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, North Carolina, have been yielding a younger, new wave of twang talent of African descent.
(My shot of superstar country artist #BradPaisley & #CharleyPride opening #CMAAwards50 – credit: @kandiacrazyhorse Instagram)
Here’s what I posted in response to the show on Wednesday night, while live-blogging portions of it on Facebook & Instagram: “I am watching #CMAAwards50 & pondering deeply about the African & Native American roots of the genre; plus how far Nashville & Music Row still have to go in honoring these legacies. Wonderful to see my hero #CharleyPride open the show with my fellow Virginian #BradPaisley (Yep, I’m a fan, despite the unwieldy “Accidental Racist;” I blame LL Cool J); but still tinged with some sadness and confusion. Someday, #NativeAmericana & #BlackHillbilly will take their proper place. For now, enjoying seeing all the 1960s & ’70s country women I grew up on that made me aspire to sing in twang, besides my Native American triumvirate (Buffy Sainte-Marie, Karen Dalton, Rita Coolidge): Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, Barbara Mandrell (!!)…& Reba…Waiting for Dolly [Parton], of course…! #KandiaCrazyHorse #NativeAmericana #mountainmusic #AppalachiaSounds from #Virginia #countrysinger #southernbelle #countrygirlsdoitbetter #AffrilachianNation”
Quibbling about how pop or authentically country any given act is — that’s something I leave to the working music critics. Certainly, the Dixie Chicks’ reappearance on the CMAs was controversial due to their past & interesting to have that baggage reexamined so close to the presidential election. Some staunch country loyalists were always going to react negatively to that. Yet the main issue — just as a decade-plus battle for Country Music’s soul reaches its zenith (see the site Saving Country Music for consistent dispatches on this topic) — is that country (&western…& Americana) is the last frontier for artists of African descent — whether that be Virginia-bred me, Kandia Crazy Horse & my new band Cactus Rose, or Kenya’s leading country singer, Sir Elvis Otieno — and the country establishment and much of the genre’s audience still views it as their own private safe haven away from the predations of urban music/culture/style and technology-tied modernity. It is interesting that Bro-Country, which would often feature the likes of Florida-Georgia Line duetting with Nelly and Blake Shelton attempting to rap, is fading just as there is a rise and music industry push behind a range of country and Americana acts that claim rock and other musics as influences or stylistically and attitude-wise invoke 1970s Outlaw Country: Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, Sam Outlaw, etc…and are hailed for restoring “true” country sonics and values […with nods to their precursors Shooter Jennings and Hank III (both of whom I often loved & covered as a critic in the past)]. Yet there’s still apparently little to no room under the twang tent for we country artists of color, cosmic or otherwise.
Hey, I love Tompall Glaser and Clarence White & Willie Nelson as much as any other ’70s babe of my generation; and as a singer-songwriter, I am clearly influenced by my most beloved Gene Clark and the Buffalo Springfield — hear my paeans “Quartz Hill” & “Americana” “Tula” (en espanol) & “Scene & Herd” etc — and the less-celebrated Ladies of the Canyon like Judee Sill, Claudia Lennear, and Essra Mohawk. Neil Young, I see you (& thanks for singing for Standing Rock). I spent the early 1970s toddling behind my dear lil’ Pamunkey mother from the Shenandoah Valley at the bluegrass tents of Folklife Festival, snuck viewings of my favorite show Hee-Haw (’twas grand to see Roy Clark pickin’ an’ grinnin’ on the CMA, yep?), dreaming of growing up to play the Grand Ole Opry (at the Mother Church Ryman, of course) just like Darius Rucker; he ain’t the only one! Sweetheart Of the Rodeo by The Byrds & The Notorious Byrd Brothers were always & still are major for me. I am talented, and I am well-versed in the breadth and depth of country; I am extremely proud of my southern roots. All we want, after so many moons of flying the freak-flag high for Black Hillbilly & Native Americana, is to have a permanent non-conditional seat at the (farm) table, per Mrs. Knowles-Carter’s great sister Solange.
As I go prepare to march for Standing Rock again this weekend through all of Manhattan, please note that the date for the Jalopy Theater water protectors benefit in Brooklyn has been changed to 25 November. Follow the new Cactus Rose band Instagram account at @cactusroselovesyou for more details as they are announced. I continue my personal commitment to ongoing activism on behalf of the Standing Rock water protectors, and the band & I are very much looking forward to playing with our friends from the Brooklyn Country scene! I expect this to be one of my treasured highlights of #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth 2016
Here’s the first press for our #ProjectAmericana undertaking tonight in Manhattan at Symphony Space — from Harlem’s own Amsterdam News THE AMERICAN SLAVE COAST: LIVE in NYC
Enjoy your TGIF & see y’all out tonight! A’ho, #KandiaCrazyHorse
(Kandia Crazy Horse & DJ Soul Punk aka Teddy K in East Harlem with effigy of Frida Kahlo, #fbf)
Yet more coverage of the Indigenous Peoples Day action @ American Museum of Natural History — the attempt to #DecolonizeThisMuseum & the Anti-Columbus Day Tour of the galleries seems to have really struck a nerve in art & activist circles. Read more here (including photograph of me): FRIEZE: Election Special – Body Languages
(From Frieze.com – Photograph: Andrés Rodriguez)
(Kandia Crazy Horse dancing women’s traditional @ Indigenous Day of Remembrance NYC in Central Park, by Kerrie Sansky)
This photo collection & blog by Kerrie Sansky just in, from the Indigenous Day of Remembrance in Manhattan this past Sunday. Features several photos of me & my friends from the Movement:
Here’s a newfound, ole fine review of Stampede from Europe’s Folkworld site
“Americana” written by Kandia and [Ben] Peeler is a brilliant mix of Blues, Songwriter, Rock and Gospel and “Soul yodel” a melancholic Country Yodel by Kandia and [Albert] Menéndez. Other highlights are the intoxicating Country Rock “Cowgirls”, showcasing Kandia’s powerful voice, or the Eagles cover “New kid in town”.
With her debut Kandia Crazy Horse establishes herself as an up-and-coming songwriter, good song writing, talented musicians and a hot new voice guarantee a good listen.
© Adolf „gorhand“ Goriup
Here’s a nice new write-up about my music & vision from the artist-centric Dead Flowers blog – also previewing our Honky-Tonk Relapse appearance this Thursday night in Brooklyn: READ HERE
When you hear the words “classic country music”, a few famous faces come to mind—all of them, most likely, white and male. But Kandia Crazy Horse is out to change all that. The NYC-based singer and songwriter is “on a crusade to become the first black woman to be invited to join the Grand Ole Opry.”And the way she sings — with a style that’s part deep-South traditional country, part soul, and more than a little influenced by the crossover twang-rock of ’70s California — she just might pull it off
Yes! I hope to see y’all out @ Hank’s Saloon!
It’s music year-end voting time in the media, and New York City’s venerable alt-weekly the Village Voice has compiled their top 13 best country albums of the year, considering my debut recording Stampede as #2 above all! Here’s a quote from what the paper’s culture editor/writer Alan Scherstuhl had to say about my take on country & western songwriting and aesthetics:
“Rather than jamming familiar sounds together, hoping they snap together into something new, Kandia Crazy Horse operates under the assumption that all those sounds are equally hers. She’s a synthesist, the opposite of whatever Big Bang first blasted American pop into all those limiting genres. Her song titles suggest her vision: “Congo Square” (on which funky drummer meets Bakersfield riffs and Rolling Thunder fiddles); “Soul Yodel” (on which “The Tennessee Waltz” and Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” dissolve together like sugar in her mouth); “Gunfight at the Golden Corral” (a crackpot two-step whose chorus is the name of Pauline Kael’s most famous book)…No record I’ve heard this year boasts such warmth and breadth and surprise.”
In the current issue #246 of MOJO on newsstands in the UK (print only), veteran British chronicler of American roots music (The Band) and Southern Californian folk-rock out of Laurel Canyon turns his gaze to Stampede, Kandia & the “promise of [her] sassy, assured debut.”
The April 2014 print issue of ACOUSTIC GUITAR magazine features a great review of Stampede & photos of Kandia: “Full of intersecting cultural lines, sincere songwriting, a genre-bending scope of sound, and unflinching bravery, Stampede is a powerful musical debut from Crazy Horse, who has the strength, soul, and talent to serve as a role model for other black women who want to enter the world of country music.” – Amber Von Nagel
“Kandia’s soulful vocals match her lyrics, evoking music made at a slower pace. She takes a post-Woodstock vibe and updates it with lean production that straddles Americana and what used to be called country-rock.”
Kandia loves horses & happy to receive some love from the “horse set” via America’s Bridle&Bit magazine
Great review on Americana/roots blog from the Netherlands
“Music critics have long had to tolerate bitter jibes from disgruntled musicians who think they write about music because they can’t actually play it. Crazy Horse, then, has presumably reached the point of putting her money where her mouth is. She can expect ‘Stampede’ to silence a lot of those sniping commentators too.
A cover of Neal Casal’s ‘So Many Enemies’ is also a helpful signpost. The two-stepping Southern rock of ‘Cowgirls’, destined to be a radio-hit, is a country music travelogue from a woman’s perspective, while the majestic closer ‘Quartz Hill’ is a certified lighters-in-the-air stadium filler.”
For some reason, it’s nowhere near well enough landmarked that Ray Charles damn near reconverted country music with his jaw-droppingly soulful renditions of standards and near-standards. If for some reason, dear reader, you’re not familiar, grab the marvelous but out-of-print Rhino box Ray Charles: The Complete Country and Western Recordings 1959-1986. Be careful, though, as it may take weeks to recover from such swoonily brilliant readings. After his lead, however, hardly any African-Americans followed in his footsteps, but now Kandia Crazy Horse has taken the mantel…but in a completely different direction, and it’s well past time someone did what she’s doing. – Mark S. Tucker for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Met Kandia “Crazy Horse” is er een country rock artieste bijgekomen, met een duidelijk doel. “Stampede” is haar éérste groot muzikaal project en maakt indruk. Kandia overtuigt als singer-songwriter, haar nummers klinken warm en vertellen verhalen. Dit is muziek die een koude avond snel kan helpen opwarmen en die de sfeer kan doen omslaan. Met muziek van Kandia “Crazy Horse” kies je voor ‘quality time’! — Eric Schuurmans
Google Translation from the original Dutch:
With Kandia Crazy Horse you get a new country rock artist, with a clear goal. “Stampede” is her first major musical project and it is impressive. Kandia is convincing as a singer-songwriter, her songs sound warm and tell stories. This is music that can help quickly transform a cold evening into a warm one with its ambiance. You will be spending quality time with music by Kandia Crazy Horse!
“It’s a record full of nods to classic folk, country, and blues. Invoking artists as far ranging as Merle Haggard, Stephen Stills, and even a little Marvin Gaye (on the unexpected genre-mashup “Soul Yodel”). But by and large, this is an album determined to defy the de facto color line and break into the country mainstream…” — Nathan Leigh for Sound Check