Martha Redbone at Naked Soul in The Rubin Museum in NYC | July 21st
Martha Redbone’s music flows equally from her own unique, award-winning blend of Native American elements with funk and her deep roots in Appalachian folk and Piedmont blues favored by the matriarchy that raised her on a rich sojourn from Clinch Mountain, Virginia to Harlan County, Kentucky and beyond to Brooklyn’s Dodge City-esque mean streets.
Redbone, since the establishment of her career in London and New York City, has humbly and steadfastly earned a solid reputation as a sought-after collaborator – whether in the guise of Warner Chappell-minted songwriter, behind the console guide or earnest guest voice — amongst her peers. Mentored by Ohio Players/P-Funk mentor Walter “Junie” Morrison, she and UK-bred partner Aaron Whitby consistently provide essential direction and soulful support to knit track and artist into an indelible whole. Redbone’s latest music resonates with the influence of southeastern raisin’, echoing an earlier time/space through elements of folk, country gospel, stomp chants, and the high lonesome of a front porch Sunday pickin’.
It may come as a surprise that Redbone’s most recent recording, The Garden Of Love – The Songs of William Blake, was recorded in the fabled center of country music, Nashville. Yet, proudly retracing the path of her uniquely American mixed heritage back to its earliest source, she is merely taking the inevitable next step of a maverick artist who has never been chained by borders.
The album, produced by Grammy-winning Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder John McEuen, drafts in a stellar supporting cast that allowed Martha to focus on vocals and deep communion with the spirits of her ancestors, composer David Amram, Seminole elder Lonnie Harrington, and studio veterans Byron House on upright bass and Mark Casstevens on guitar.
Her latest work is developing musical theater piece, Bone Hill, commissioned by Joe’s Pub and the Public Theater and NY Voices. Presented as a dramatic musical work with a cast of 8 actors/musicians, BONE HILL is inspired by her own family lineage in the Appalachian Mountains. An epic story of one woman’s return to her homeland on Black Mountain and the coal mines of Harlan County, KY where her family have dwelled for centuries. Spanning the lives and stories of four generations of women in a Cherokee family Redbone travels back in time to her own childhood and beyond into the memories and tales of her ancestors. It is a story about the family’s connection to the land – the simplicity and sacredness of that connection and the ruptures that threaten to extinguish it. The journey brings to light an important piece of American history that has remained untold.
The couple crafted Garden of Love between touring, producing albums at their Brooklyn studio, an ongoing foray into banjo mastery, activism, and the never-ending daily joys of raising a young son and the album attains the heights of an imperishable artifact, due to the acute losses of her mother, aunt and other trials amidst the writing and recording process. And so, for a concept that has gestated over five years, the album is right on time – as revision of the artist’s complex American heritage, as loving messages to her child heir to these roots, and a balm for audiences hungering for truth and higher meaning in these turbulent times.