Really interesting project here. Those of you who know Martha Redbone may be more familiar with her funk, soul, R&B and rock-influenced sounds.  And while that’s a part of who she is, she’s also an artist who’s won awards for mining the Native-American side of her identity (she’s part Shawnee and Choctaw).  Knowing that, it’s less of a stretch to find her doing an album that’s set squarely in the heart of Appalachia.

Her current project, five years in the making, takes the words of the Romantic poet William Blake (1757-1827) and sets them amidst an Americana landscape of “swampy slow grooves, ancient chants, field hollers and gospel mayhem”.  At first glance, it might sound odd, but upon hearing it, you realize it works.  The songs, swirled in folks, country, gospel and blues are made timeless and relevant.  According to a press release, Redbone had this to say about Blake:

“Blake teaches us that the imagination is a portion of the divine principle, and that ‘Energy is Eternal Delight,’ and ‘everything that lives is holy’. These are songs that celebrate community, empathy and love, messages the world desperately needs at a time of atomization, emotional disconnect, and widespread hardship.”

It’s worth noting what’s probably been an ongoing reclamation of American roots music by Redbone, as well as artists such as the Carolina Chocolate Drops, former Chocolate Drop Justin Robinson, Lizz Wright, Kamara Thomas & others too numerous to name.

Check out the song, and let us know what you think!

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  • Mark Kirby

    This is good, real good. I love Carolina Chocolate Drops and Redbone and the movement among young black artists getting into our heritage. Modern R&B, like so much modern pop, has shallow roots. I support and love this. I can tell that she and the CCD are younger musicians, however.

    I would recommend the Heritage Blues Orchestra. It has Bill Sims, Jr., his daughter Cheney Sims, and the great Junior Mack. Bill was recently inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame ( as was I and the other bartenders at the 55 Bar). Their album is GREAT, PHENOMENAL. Bill is around 65 and he has his own unique take on blues, rhythm and blues, jazz and organ funk. Junior is awesome and Cheney has a real powerful but subtle voice. Their record is fresh, not retro. It’s alive, not paying homage. These people are old masters – save for the young and elegant Cheney – making great new music, mainly reinventions and revivifications of traditional blues and gospel as well as original songs.

    The band includes Mathew Skoller, the harmonica master and legend from Chicago, Bruno Wilhelm on tenor sax and horn arrangements for a horn section that includes Kenny Rampton (I heard him tonight and he is a burning blues trumpeter – there’s a reason he plays 2nd trumpet behind Wynton Marsalis in the Lincoln Center Orchestra) and Clark Gayton (dismissed from Sting’s band for getting louder applause and standing ovations for his solos, to the chagrin in Sting – also played with Dr. John, Springsteen, SNL band, etc.,) I’m telling you, this band is the shiznit and takes this movement to another level.

  • Mark Kirby

    Here is the link I meant to give you Bold As Love to the Bill Sims, Jr. and Heritage website.