Native Blues

Indigenous joins the tribe of rock 'n' roll

In 1998, the band released its debut, Blues This Morning, and began touring extensively. While on the road, Indigenous was approached by Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, who asked the band members to record a cut for her Honor the Earthcompilation. Jim Nickel of Pachyderm studio recorded the song and eventually signed the band to his independent label. The label released On Things We Do later the same year, and a live disc, Live at Pachyderm Studios, followed in 1999. This week, Indigenous released a new recording, Circle, a disc that continues the band's honoring of Vaughan's legacy. It was produced by Doyle Bramhall, a frequent collaborator and longtime friend of Vaughan's. Bramhall also contributed a pair of songs to Circle.

Like its predecessors, Wanbdi says, the new CD is another universal endeavor that eschews songs of cultural struggle for more personal ones. Would this approach please her late father, who has been described by some writers as an activist? "They really played that up," she says of some of the group's early chroniclers. "He helped people a lot, but he wasn't no Russell Means. He was more for the people; he wasn't an activist at all."

And even if he were, Wanbdi says, it's likely he'd approve of the methods she and her rising-star mates are implementing to gain exposure for themselves and their music. Though Indigenous is not politically radical, the band's increased profile in music surely has some social effect; whether it is its mission or not, the band is increasing awareness that Native Americans do not always fit the mold of social stereotypes. Sometimes, for example, they like to play the blues.

"We have to approach things in a different way than people did back in the '60s and '70s," Wanbdi says. "Hollering in people's faces -- it ain't gonna get their attention. So what do you do? You show them that there are other ways to get around things, other ways to get things done, other ways to help your families. Like going about it in a sober, drug-free, clear-minded way when you're trying to get your life together. I think that's where a lot of the problems come from when it comes to Indians being oppressed for so long and not having any self-esteem, no nothing.

"Inside people," she says, "that's where everything has to start." And could that same internal approach apply to the soul battling a wicked case of the blues, too? No matter what their skin tone? "Yes, it would," Wanbdi says. "Once that happens, lives will get better. And not just for Indian people, but for all people who are down."

Indigenous is scheduled to perform on Friday, May 12, at Alice Cooper'stown, with the Keller Brothers. Showtime is 8 p.m.

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