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'Medicine Songs'   

-  Label: 'True North Records'
-  Genre: 'Folk' -  Release Date: '26th January 2018'-  Catalogue No: 'TND681'

Our Rating:
Buffy Sainte-Marie burst on the scene with her 1964 debut 'It’s My Way!' and she's been doing it her way ever since.

As a defiant outsider and self appointed disruptor of the status quo she has soldiered on without achieving the broad audience she deserves. Now in her late 70s she might be forgiven for mellowing but, happily, she still sounds as enraged and rebellious as ever.

Taking a line from Starwalker, this collection is called her medicine songs because she wants to promote its healing potential. "I hope this album can be positive and provide ideas and remedies that rock your world and inspire new ideas of your own” she says.

The 20 selections are a mixture of old and new. She has chosen to re-record tracks from earlier in her career on the grounds that many were deemed too controversial for radio play when they first came out and she believes that the subject matter is just as relevant now.

It's hard to argue against this opinion since, unfortunately, issues like state oppression, misguided patriotism, political corruption, disinformation and greed are as urgent now as they were half a century ago. Buffy Sainte-Marie is, to use her own words, “putting the songs to work”.

"Sometimes you got to make a stand" she sings (with Tanya Tagaq) in the stirring opening track - You Got to Run (Spirit of the Wind) - and a prime example of her doing just that is in My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying which was written in the 1960s before people acknowledged the genocide of the North American Indians.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Now That the Buffalo’s Gone were also composed to publicise how the indigenous people of America have been systematically cheated, robbed and abused.

The fact that these songs have not dated is proof of the adage that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Universal Soldier, written in 1961, is "about individual responsibility for the world we're living in" and she adds "I wish it didn't still make sense". The War Racket is a powerful update of the same themes.

In a similar vein, Power in the Blood is an excellent cover of the Alabama 3 song which, with A3's consent, modifies the original violent lyrics and turns it into an anthem for peace ("say no no no to war" instead of "I'll be ready for war")

Buffy says Carry It On is her favourite song and it's not hard to understand why. It is a kind of companion piece to Patti Smith's 'People Have The Power' with the uplifting reminder that "It ain't government that makes people strong".

As with all the songs on this inspirational album it advocates speaking out and activism in response to oppression and injustice.

This is medicine that should be taken in large doses.

Buffy Sainte-Marie's website

  author: Martin Raybould

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SAINTE-MARIE, BUFFY - Medicine Songs