Sunday, September 20, 2015

Americana Music Awards: Seeing Buffy Sainte-Marie Perform on Stage for the First Time

By Wil Comstock
MCAU Contributing Writer

            It’s not like me to get places early, yet here I am in my seat and observing.  What could be more Americana than the Ryman Auditorium? The stage is set for the Americana Music Awards. Soon Buddy Miller will be leading the all-star band, and Jim Lauderdale will emcee the show. Tonight I am biased, biased and not ashamed. The girl I have listened to since eighth grade, and that was a long time ago, will accept a lifetime achievement award.  I cannot wait to see her. I had tickets to see her in Philly in the spring, but she canceled. This will be my first time... first times are always unforgettable.  Tonight I will breath a little of the same air as Buffy Sainte-Marie. 

Buffy Sainte Marie speaks at Middle Tennessee State University (Photo by Chuck Whiting)

            Robert Randolph kicked, and I do mean kicked off the show with his red steel guitar. He was soon joined by The McCrary Sisters and The Fairfield Four with a hair-raising performance of “Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham”. They brought the house down!

            Highlights of the award show for me were seeing Don Henley graciously accept the Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award.  We were all pleased to hear a cut from his new album, Cass County “Pray for Rain”.  Acts that were new to me were Shakey Graves singing “Dearly Departed”. This guy has a new fan in me.  Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Hubby Jenkins gave unforgettable performance mixing roots, blues and operatic styles. I had never heard anything quite like this before. If I had to pick a new favorite, it would be The Lone Bellow. This trio with accompanying horns and strings reminded me of the classic first time performance Ricky Martin gave on the Grammys years ago.  They were that good.

            Keb Mo walked onstage with his guitar slung over his shoulder and told us this would have been BB King’s 90th birthday. He and Lucille, BB’s guitar, gave a tribute to the last of the great Delta blues men... an incredible tribute and performance.

            Blacklisted by the Johnson and Nixon administrations and here tonight for the Lifetime “Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award”, I rise to my feet as Buffy Sainte-Marie takes the stage.  She explained that her blacklisting was not because of her protest songs but because she was outspoken about the Vietnam War and the outrageous treatment of Native Americans by a government that was still plotting to take their land. Everyone left the stage as she stood alone and performed “Universal Soldier”. I was in tears.

Wil Comstock with Buffy Sainte-Marie (Photo by Chuck Whiting)


            From MCAU Editor Chuck Whiting: Buffy Sainte-Marie visited Middle Tennessee State University the following afternoon to speak to students in the College of Entertainment and Media. Here are a few highlights:

            * Write "dumb" (simple) to make your songs understandable to everyone.

            * "Play, play, play... Never turn down a gig."

            * Some students gasped when the youthful Buffy told her audience she is 74 years old. "Age doesn't matter," she told them. "For me, every day is better."

            * Always copyright your work. Buffy lost the publishing for her classic song "Universal Soldier" when she accepted a $1 publishing offer on a napkin by an unscrupulous shark. She later bought the publishing back for $25,000.

            * Despite her success, very few Americans know who Buffy Sainte-Marie is (which makes it easier for her to roam freely in the United States without being recognized).

          To learn more about the Americana Music Festival, visit Visit Buffy Sainte-Marie's website at

No comments:

Post a Comment