Martha Redbone, considered one of today’s most vital voices in American roots music, performs in Helena Jan. 9, Billings Jan. 11, and Bozeman Jan. 12.
The multi-award-winning musician is celebrated for mixing the folk and mountain blues sounds of her childhood in the Appalachian hills of Kentucky with the eclectic grit of her teenage years in pre-gentrified Brooklyn. Fueled by the power of her gospel-singing African-American father and the determined spirit of her Cherokee/Shawnee/Choctaw mother, Redbone broadens all boundaries of Americana.
Lauded by the New Yorker as “a brilliant collision of cultures,” her latest CD, The Garden of Love- Songs of William Blake, was produced by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder/Grammy winner John McEuen. The album features Redbone’s striking voice, Blake’s immortal words and a masterful cornucopia of roots music (folk, country, Piedmont blues, gospel, bluegrass, soul and traditional Southeastern Native American).
Redbone and her long-term collaborator and husband, pianist Aaron Whitby, were called “the little engine that could,” accompanied by their “band of New York City’s finest blues and jazz musicians.” (Larry Blumenthal-Wall Street Journal) From grassroots beginnings with residencies at the original Living Room NYC, then Joe’s Pub, and nationally at powwows across Indian Country in support of her debut album, Home of the Brave, Redbone has built a passionate fan base. Time Out New York lauds her as “a charismatic indie-soul diva whose sound is a just-right mix of retro and modern.”
Myrna Loy hosts Redbone’s “Bone Hill”
The Redbone/Whitby team’s newest work is Bone Hill – The Concert, an interdisciplinary musical theater work that brings to light an important piece of American history that has never been told. Inspired by the lives of Redbone’s family in the hills of coal-mining Appalachia, “Bone Hill” is the journey of a woman who returns to her homeland in Black Mountain and the coalmines of Kentucky where her family has dwelled for centuries.
The story spans four generations of a multi-racial Cherokee/Shawnee and African American family, permanently bonded to their culture, identity and the mountain, despite its violent past and the ever-changing laws of the land that attempt to extinguish them. Commissioned by Joe’s Pub and the Public Theater NY Voices, Redbone is a recipient of the NEFA National Theater Project Creation and Touring Grant and National Performance Network Creation Fund and Lincoln Center.
The production “shows how a family held on to their culture and their identity despite all of the laws that threaten to extinguish them,” Redbone told Marga Lincoln in a story that appears in the Helena Independent Record.
The title is “a play on words,” she told the IR. “All our bones being in those hills and we’re from those hills and they’ve always been part of our lives … That land always calls us back. We go back for ceremonies. We go back to bury our dead. We go back to celebrate births.”
Her show, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Myrna Loy Center, is a Montana exclusive that includes her eight-piece ensemble. Tickets are $18-$22; call 406-443-0287 or visit themyrnaloy.com.
Other Montana performances
Billings: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11, at the Alberta Bair Theater; tickets are $22-$42 (406-256-6052)
Bozeman: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at The Ellen; tickets are $26 (406-585-5885).