Buffy Sainte-Marie – Running for the Drum

January 01, 1970





The best thing about a unique voice – and Buffy
Sainte-Marie’s fierce, proud vibrato certainly qualifies as one – is that it
defies age. It’s neither a voice of youth nor of middle age; it belongs to an
individual and is always as fresh as a fingerprint. On “Running for the Drum,”
her first recording in 13 years, when Sainte-Marie lets that voice soar
unrepressed, as she does on “No No Keshagesh,” “I Bet My Heart On You” and
“Working for the Government,” she really rocks! Yoko Ono’s got nothing on her.


That’s maybe an odd thing to say – the 68-year-old
singer-songwriter of American Indian ancestry is mostly known for 1960s-era
folk-protest songs, some related to her ethnicity, and later for the
Oscar-winning pop ballad “Up Where We Belong,” which she co-wrote. But when she
sings those fast songs, you can hear how much she loved rockabilly as a kid and
has retained its spirit. She even pays respect to Elvis with “Blue Sunday,”
which borrows a beat and an attitude from “Heartbreak Hotel.” She has always
had political bite, best shown here by an effective remake of her eerie and
still-relevant “Little Wheel Spin and Spin.” Sainte-Marie also still writes
ballads of the “Up”-lift variety – “Too Much Is Never Enough — which are nice
as far as they go, since her plaintive voice usually helps them avoid
sentimentality, although an update of “America the Beautiful” (with some new
words honoring Indian tribes) can’t surmount the treacly arrangement.


Working with producer Chris Birkett, Sainte-Marie gets an
interesting effect on some of the faster songs, conjuring both tribal drums and
dance-club abandon.  Overall, this is an
album, and a career, with a lot of vibrancy. To paraphrase the title of one of
her best-known compositions, it’s not time for her to go yet. Not by a long


Standout Tracks: “No No Keshagesh,” “I Bet My Heart on You” 


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