Many A Mile Buffy Sainte-Marie

£7.43

Genre:
Folk
Label:
Vanguard
Format:
CD
Catalogue Id:
VMD 79171

Buffy’s second album, issued in 1965. It features her own compositions, traditional material and songs by Bukka White and Patrick Sky.

In 1964, Buffy Sainte-Marie left Greenwich Village to attend a pow wow in Saskatchewan, which deepened her passion for Native American music. This made its presence felt in her vocal inflections, subject matter and heightened rhythm-driven elements after she signed to Vanguard and released her debut album. The following year, she released her second album, “Many A Mile”, named after the title track by Patrick Sky.

The set featured several Child Ballads, drawn from the songs from England, Scotland and their American variants, collected by Francis James Child in the second half of the 19th century. The album starts with the stark ‘Must I Go Bound’. ‘Los Pescadores’ was written by Buffy during a trip to Mexico, reached after travelling alone on a bus for three days, but resulting in her befriending the dirt-poor fishermen of Acapulco. On the traditional ‘Groundhog’ she plays her mouthbow, its twang joined by an impassioned chant-style vocal. Buffy learned the traditional murder ballad ‘On The Banks Of Red Roses’ from an old Irish lady she met while a hospital patient in New York. ‘Fixin’ To Die’ sees Buffy wrapping her forceful vibrato around the song written by blues legend Booker “Bukka” White in 1940 after serving two years at the notorious Parchman Farm prison.

According to Buffy, ‘Until It’s Time For You To Go’ was “just a song written by a girl in love”, which “popped into my head while I was falling in love with someone I knew couldn’t stay with me”, concerning lovers from two different worlds who knew they couldn’t be together so savoured every moment. It was first taken into the UK top 20 by UK pop band the Four Pennies that year, then covered by names including Elvis, Andy Williams, Cher, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson, Jim Croce, Shirley Bassey, Françoise Hardy and soul group New Birth.

Buffy’s favourite ‘The Piney Wood Hills’, which she would revisit several times in her career, closed side one. Side two opened with the heartfelt ‘Welcome Welcome Emigrante’, which was topical at the time with the government’s plans to revise immigrant quotas. After the jazz-flavoured amble of ‘Broke-Down Girl’ presage the laidback strum style favoured by West Coast singer-songwriters over the next decade, there’s the traditional Irish bounce of ‘Johnny Be Fair’ and haunted reflection of ‘Maple Sugar Boy’, written when Buffy was 16. The closing three tracks are when the deeper magic kicks in. First, Buffy’s unique sustained vibrato energises the traditional bad-man ballad ‘Lazarus’ with unholy power before ‘Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies’ uses the mouthbow’s strange momentum as a backdrop for Buffy’s uniquely disembodied take on the Southern mountain standard. Finally, Patrick Sky adds guitar and harmonica on her rich take on his ‘Many A Mile’, which she explains on the original cover as “a song about travelling” where the singer “accepts and affirms her chosen way of life”.

The magical “Many A Mile” – her rarest release, having puzzlingly escaped availability on CD for years – is where the road became clear for this undersung, quietly fearless outsider pioneer, who wasn't afraid to step up and sing out.

Kris Needs

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