Running For The Drum

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Appleseed, 2009

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


For anyone who came of age during the ‘60s folk movement, the name Buffy does not conjure up the image of a blonde vampire killer.

Buffy Sainte-Marie has traveled a lot of musical miles since the issue of her debut album in 1964. She is a ‘60s artist who has kept the faith in the ideals established by the folk movement of that era. She is also a Native American artist who has remained true to her heritage.

Her body of work is extensive, but she is best remembered for several signature performances and original songs. Her best known recording is probably a cover of the classic Joni Mitchell song, “The Circle Game.” Her original composition, “Until Its Time For You To Go,” has been recorded by such artists as Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, and many more. She co-wrote “Up Where We Belong” for the movie An Officer And A Gentleman,my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 which won her an Oscar.

Now, Sainte-Marie has returned with her first album of all new material in thirteen years. Running For The Drum is an eclectic collection of twelve original songs which center on her life as an activist, pacifist, and Native American. She also includes a couple of love songs and a few just for fun as well.

Her voice has aged nicely and does not have the constant shrill edge it once had. Her lyrics remain her greatest strength, as she is able to paint pictures with words to communicates her thoughts and feelings.

The lead track, “No No Keshagesh,” has a rocking beat but is a biting criticism of modern society. She continues in a critical vein with “Working For The Government,” which looks beneath the seemingly peaceful surface of how our government operates. “Little Wheel And Spin” is a throwback to her ‘60s work; its simplicity and topic remind me of her “Universal Soldier.”

The two tracks that are just for fun are still very strong songs. “I Bet My Heart On You,” complete with honky tonk piano, is a tribute to New Orleans and Fats Domino. “Blue Sunday” is an Elvis Presley clone that she gets just right.

The most sophisticated song on this disc is “Too Much Is Never Enough.” She sings about heroes, love, and loss. The lyrics are some of her finest.

“Cho Cho Fire” is a return to her roots and the campfire, featuring chanting in the background. “America The Beautiful” is adjusted to include Native Americans in the lyrics, which works better than it sounds.

Meanwhile, the accompanying DVD is a generous documentary of her life as an artist and performer. It traces her journey from the ‘60s to the present day with many clips and still photographs. Interviews with such people as Joni Mitchell, Robbie Robertson, and Eric Anderson serve to enhance the experience.  

Running For The Drum is a fine addition to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s catalogue and legacy. She remains unintimidated by life and her surroundings, and this is reflected in this strong and beautiful album.

Rating: A-

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© 2009 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Appleseed, and is used for informational purposes only.