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…”
– 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.”