LIVE: Buffy Sainte-Marie @ the Eighth Step at Proctors, 5/23/15

June 22nd, 2015, 3:00 pm by Greg

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Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Rudy Lu

“I can tell you things I’ve done,
and I can sing you songs I’ve sung,
But there’s one thing I can’t give
for I and I alone can live
the years I’ve known,
the life I’ve grown.
Got a way I’m going,
and it’s my way…”

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– Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “It’s My Way”

“It’s My Way” is the title track of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s 1964 debut album, and was certainly a bold statement for a young up-and-coming folk artist. Now, more than 50 years later, she revisited the anthem as the lead-off track on her new album, Power in the Blood, and as the opening volley at her recent concert at the Eighth Step at Proctors in Schenectady.

And as a statement of purpose, it’s as apropos and as potent as ever for the Canadian Cree singer-songwriter. At age 74, she remains defiantly outspoken and staunchly independent songwriter and performer.

Her set list veered from the powerfully personal to the pointedly political. Her protest songs both old (“Universal Soldier” and a reggae-tinged rendition of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”) and newer (“Priests of the Golden Bull”) were deftly balanced with love songs (“Until It’s Time for You to Go” and the encore of her Academy Award-winning “Up Where We Belong”) and sing-along anthems (the hypnotic “We Are Circling” and the show-closing “Carry It On”).

With Sainte-Marie switching back and forth between guitar and keyboards, her music ran the stylistic gamut from loping country (“Farm in the Middle of Nowhere”) to the slinky soul of “Love Charms (Mojo Bijoux),” from the straight-up rockabilly of “Blue Sunday” to the rip-roaring pow-wow rock of “Cho Cho Fire” to the psychedelic swirl of “Little Wheel Spin and Spin.”

In celebration of the release of Power in the Blood, she brought a new, expanded band to Schenectady, with only drummer Michel Lee J Bruyere remaining from the band that backed her last area appearance at the Eighth Step back in 2012. Unfortunately, the new band (led by guitarist Anthony King) sounded a bit too arena-rock generic for the wide swath of genre-hopping that Sainte-Marie’s music demands.

More troubling was Sainte-Marie’s own sound engineer, who pushed too hot and hard on the volume knob, driving the PA speakers to frequent distortion and often burying Sainte-Marie’s distinctive, quavering voice in the mix. Her vocals were, in fact, nearly inaudible during the hard driving “Cho Cho Fire” and “No No Keshagesh.” Unfortunate, to say the least…

Shawnee, Oklahoma singer-songwriter Samantha Crain opened the show with an intimate, impressive, six-song, half-hour solo set, offering the sublime “Elk City” as a preview of her upcoming album, Under Branch & Thorn & Tree (due out next month), as well as such gems as the juanty “Somewhere All the Time,” which she wryly noted was “written during the commercial breaks of my favorite movie on TV – ‘Convoy.'”

BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE SET LIST
It’s My Way
Piney Wood Hills
Cho Cho Fire
Darlin’ Don’t Cry
Farm in the Middle of Nowhere
Generation
No No Keshagesh
Universal Solider
Little Wheel Spin and Spin
Power in the Blood
We Are Circling
Blue Sunday
Not the Lovin Kind
Love Charms (Mojo Bijoux)
The Priests of the Golden Bull
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Until It’s Time for You to Go
Carry It On
ENCORES
Up Where We Belong
Starwalker

SAMANTHA CRAIN SET LIST
To Unpack My Clothes and Shoes
Somewhere All the Time
Elk City
Devils in Boston
When You Come Back
Churchill

ALSO READ:
A FEW MINUTES WITH… Buffy Sainte-Marie
LIVE: Buffy Sainte-Marie @ the Eighth Step at Proctors, 1/6/12
INTERVIEW: Buffy Sainte-Marie Disobeys All the Rules…

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Samantha Crain

Samantha Crain