Howdy y’all / Osiyo skidoi, all my relations! I have not been able to report back much nor update this site, due to all the many #StandingRock actions & Native American circle pre-thanksgiving ceremonies & events I had over this past weekend & some. Among other events, I sang some of my Native Americana music @ the opening of Urban Native exhibit Cave To The Stars – Urban Natives Unrecognized @ Bread & Roses Project Gallery in Midtown last Thursday; I did #HonoringOurAncestors with the central Harlem Native circle on Saturday, followed by the Thunderbird American Indian Benefit Auction that night on the Upper East Side. And still working on my #LeonRussell memorial article, even as I rehearse for this Friday’s Benefit For Water Protectors concert in Brooklyn @ Jalopy Theater. Ho wa, will share some pix of all this activity by-and-by, but now am learning new songs & also preparing for tomorrow’s Standing Rock action in Midtown – if you somehow missed the horrible news of the chemical weaponry, water cannons & rubber bullets unleashed on the Standing Rock water protectors Sunday night in sub-freezing temperatures & its fallout, now is the time to become aware & join us in these support actions & by donating to the camps. I am receiving many communications suddenly from friends who have been relatively apathetic pre-election & several fellow country / Americana artists now querying me about the Standing Rock resistance; so it will be interesting to see how this continues to unfold & whether President “Walking Eagle” Obama will finally do something definitive in response to these unconscionable attacks on my prayerful relations out West. Still enjoying #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth somewhat — despite the unceasing musical losses: sadly, #SharonJones has walked on, claimed by the same cancer that took my dear mother. This has cast a further pall on the holiday week. A’ho*
Art for tomorrow’s #StandingRock action, by my brotha-in-struggle Kyle Goen #kyledidthis
& a lil’ lighthearted #ThrowbackTuesday snap by #NedSublette of me & my brothas Teddy K aka DJ Soul Punk & Cap’n #KirkDouglas of #TheRoots (the last time I got to see Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings live was @ The Roots Picnic in Philly) @ my live #BlackHillbilly #countryandwestern music series #TheHarlemHonkytonk #SaddleUp!
As a fan/supporter of the Americana & Alt-Country scenes for decades, as well as a longtime rock journalist/music editor covering the country genre, I became aware of Brooklyn’s Jalopy Theater at its inception & used to frequent it a lot in the earlier days of its existence when I socialized with a lot of rural transplants to the City from elsewhere in Mainland America. Since I started writing songs & then playing out, have long wished to play there for Jalopy is the main equivalent in NYC to what the Nashville country Mother Church, the Ryman, provided for generations of hillbilly singers & players during the 20th century. So I am pleased that I am finally making my debut appearance @ Jalopy Theater on 25 November, with my new Native Americana / Cosmic Country band Cactus Rose: Jeff McLaughlin (guitar, vocals), Evan Taylor (drums), Hilary Hawke (banjo, vocals) & our frequent guest star, Seminole elder/artist/activist Lonnie Harrington (guitar, vocals). Thanks to the organizer of this benefit for the water protectors of Standing Rock that we are performing in support of: Jan Bell of the Maybelles & #BrooklynAmericanaFestival
( My picker, Jeff McLaughlin, with his signature Heritage guitar, during our Cactus Rose band rehearsal this afternoon, High Harlem NYC – We are pleased to continue our activism & being of service via our art on behalf of Standing Rock — as well as the Split Rock — water protectors in North Dakota & New Jersey #mniwiconi #NoDAPL #NoAIM #StandingInSolidarityWithStandingRock #LoveWillWin )
It will be fun to again share a bill with the husband of my dear sistahfriend & fellow Georgia Peach, Amanda Jo Williams, that I have sung with for years: Matthew O’Neill – Matthew’s also a big Neil Young fancier & we commune often about Neil’s sounds & Native lore; so great timing to do a show with him during Native American Heritage Month & right after Thanksgiving. Looking forward! Nee Ah Nee – A’ho*
Sho’nuff, I got post-Election 2016 Blues & been nursing ’em by spinning a lot of fitting tunes by my hero / influence as an artist-activist, Gil Scott-Heron — including “Winter In America” & “B-Movie.” Feeling even more wintry this grey November day in New York City for just found out that musician & bookseller #MartinStone has walked on. Regret that have not had the resources to cover a favorite song by one of his former bands, my beloved #MightyBaby, as long planned; but still hope to do so one day. Like the great Ian Matthews of Fairport Convention/Matthews Southern Comfort (who I briefly met once when he got me into his tour of Gene Clark’s No Other that came to the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn) & my new friend/fellow sister country singer who used to dwell in the Ozarks, Jan Bell of the Maybelles / Brooklyn Americana Festival, who hails from Yorkshire, Stone was one of a select elite of master musicians that interpreted Anglo-Americana, perhaps the most interesting & exciting moment of the original British Invasion of the 1960s/early ’70s.
I have fortunately been invited by Jan to perform at the Jalopy Theater benefit concert for Standing Rock that she has organized, on 25 November @ 9pm in Brooklyn. Tix available here: KANDIA CRAZY HORSE x CACTUS ROSE singing in support of the STANDING ROCK water protectors camps
Here’s my beloved “Virgin Spring,” lachrymose, gossamer beauty befitting the vibes today in America. Mighty Baby was the UK’s answer to the Grateful Dead — a band I followed for aeons — & it’s interesting that they made their transition to this sound roughly around the same time that Jerry & ‘nem were trying to remold themselves in the manner of then-emerging Crosby Stills & Nash (& sometimes Young), as you hear on my favorite Dead LP, Workingman’s Dead >>>>>>>—–))—>
Sending you love o’er the Big Water in Fair Albion (despite #Brexit & #BritsSoWhite), to my brotha Mark Pringle, co-head of London’s Rocksbackpages.com which archives my early music journalism – Thankye, Mark, kindly for what correspondence did get to have with Martin Stone – A’ho*
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
Hope yer gettin’ over The Hump well this week, Sisters & Brothers! For those that don’t know: November is #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth
Here in New York City, I will be doing lots of actions & activities to honor that. Among them, I am doing a prayerful march through the entirety of Manhattan Island this Saturday with my friends of the Eagle & Condor Community Center (in Queens), from the National Museum of the American Indian @ Bowling Green (the southernmost tip of Manhattan) all the way to Shorakapok (the Indian Caves @ Inwood Hill on the Spuyten Duyvil). The march goes from 10 am until 6pm. I will also be rolling through the Black Farmers Conference in Harlem this weekend.
This month, I will be performing at another benefit for Standing Rock, on November 25 @ 9pm, this time at the City’s premiere venue for hillbilly/old-timey/bluegrass/roots music — the Jalopy Theater in Brooklyn. I have been trying to work it out to play at Jalopy for a long time, so happy to finally do so for a great, beautiful cause so near and dear to my Native heart. This will also be the proper debut of my new Native Americana / twang band Cactus Rose. More details TBA!
(Kandia Crazy Horse @ Electric Lady Studios in vintage fringed buckskin jacket, Greenwich Village NYC, by Camara Dia Holloway)
Made my #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth pilgrimage to #ElectricLadyStudios in the Village, honoring #JimiHendrix’ Native #Tsalagi roots. Received some purple & feathered energy from Jimi that I will be unleashing when I perform @ the Standing Rock benefit @ Jalopy – A’ho*
#Jimi Hendrix #AniYunwiya #KandiaCrazyHorse x #CactusRose #Pamunkey #Afrohippies #CherokeeMist #TaharqaAleem #Ibeji #TheAleems #TwinsSevenSeven #NativeAmericana #ICanHearAtlantisFullOfCheer #MniWiconi #ElectricLadies #CosmicAmericanMusic