Buffy Sainte Marie Power In The Blood on LP
Buffy Sainte-Marie's bold 2015 album, Power in the Blood, begins where it all started more than 50 years ago, with a contemporary version of "It's My Way," the title track of her 1964 debut. Its message, about the road to self-identity and the conviction to be oneself, still resonates with the Cree singer-songwriter, activist, educator, visual artist, and winner of countless awards (Oscar, Juno, and Golden Globe, among them).
Power in the Blood is a follow-up to 2008's acclaimed Running for the Drum and only her fourth studio release in more than 20 years. Her latest record is an honest reflection of Sainte-Marie. The hallmarks of her catalog – the eclecticism and compassion she brings to each album, oblivious to genre boundaries and production trends – are in glorious bloom here. It's the Buffy you know and love, and it's geared for contemporary audiences.
Throbbing to a techno beat, the title track was originally written and performed by the British band Alabama 3, of whom she is a fan. It's safe to say Sainte-Marie makes it her own. She wrote new lyrics, turning the song inside out and reconfiguring it as a potent antiwar statement. Power in the Blood also includes odes to the sanctity of life ("We Are Circling") and the splendor of Mother Nature ("Carry It On," a song so euphoric and empowering that it should be taught in schools and performed at the Olympics).
Hungry for songs of substance, Sainte-Marie also found inspiration in UB40's "Sing Our Own Song," which had been closely associated with Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and put her own powwow spin on it. "Farm in the Middle of Nowhere" is her sweet confession of what her life is like these days, with a country spirit she describes as "rockabilly Hawaiian." "Ke Sakihitin Awasis" is another love song, this one specifically for the Native culture Sainte-Marie has unflinchingly spotlighted as a humanitarian and world-renowned musician.
She a;sp revisits three of her earlier songs – "It's My Way," "Not the Lovin' Kind," and "Generation," the latter two written during "the blacklist years" when she could get no airplay – recalling Glen Spreen and Norbert Putnam's original '70s arrangements, and giving fans an opportunity to appreciate them anew. Recording in Toronto, Sainte-Marie enlisted three different producers, a first for her, to help shape Power in the Blood: Michael Wojewoda (Barenaked Ladies, Jeff Healey), Chris Birkett (Sinéad O'Connor, Bob Geldof) and Jon Levine (Melissa Etheridge, Serena Ryder). Birkett has now worked with Sainte-Marie on four albums, beginning with 1992's Coincidence and Likely Stories.
Power in the Blood is a reminder that, five decades on, it is still futile to silence artists or to put Sainte-Marie in any single category. She simply doesn't fit. Yes, she can inspire you to rise up and take action, but she can just as easily melt your heart with a tender ballad. Go back to "Until It's Time for You to Go" and you'll be hard-pressed to say when it was written or for whom. It's evergreen and, like so much of Sainte-Marie's work, it's universal.