“Little Wheel Spin And Spin” by Buffy Saint-Marie - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1966Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

8 Buffy originals and 4 traditionals make up her third LP, now with added electric guitar by Bruce Langhorne and string arrangements by Felix Pappalardi. The whispering psychedelia of anti-dictorial opener “Little Wheel Spin And Spin” captivates and delivers a strong message; we're all part of the wheel, be sure to play your part to keep it in line.

Ever a champion of her people and her Native American roots, Buffy delivers “My Country ’Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying”, a passionate diatribe against past wrongs being swept under the carpet which still have consequences today: “You force us to send our toddlers away | To your schools where they're taught to despise their traditions | Forbid them their languages, then further say | That American history really began | When Columbus set sail out of Europe, and stress | That the nation of leeches that conquered this land | Are the biggest and bravest and boldest and best | And yet where in your history books is the tale | Of the genocide basic to this country's birth”. As she says herself: “American people haven't been given a fair share at learning the true history of the American Indian. They know neither the state of poverty that the Indians are in now nor how it got to be that way. I try to tell the side of the story that's left out of the history books, that can only be found in the documents, the archives and in the memories of the Indians themselves.” Opening side two bizzarely, “Timeless Love” is a squelchy pop ballad of the Cilla Black variety - that's not what I signed up for. Ironically, this is followed by the single best track in her catalogue, go figure!

On the ominous “Sir Patrick Spens”, an 18th century traditional, Buffy digs way back through time and demonstrates an aptitude for the auld folk form with her traditional picks; already followers are seeing great versatility within the artist. The song tells the tale of a Scots king who acquires the services of the finest sailor in the land, Sir Patrick Spens, to navigate a difficult winter’s voyage to Norway. There, he must fetch the King’s daughter and bring her home to Scotland: “The king sits in Dumferlin toune, Drinking the bluded wine, 'O where will I get a good Scotch sailor, To sail this ship o’ mine?', Then up and spak an eldern knicht, Wha’s e’r at the kings richt knee, 'Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor, Who sails on the salt sea.'” Although folklorist Francis Child does not regard the ballad as historically true – there is no verified character Sir Patrick Spens – Margaret, daughter of Alexander the Third of Scotland was married in 1281 to Eric, King of Norway. She was taken by ship to Norway in the August of that year with a large escort of Noblemen, many of whom were drowned on the voyage home. Dunfermline was, of course, the capital of Scotland at this time. Whilst it may not be strictly factual, it’s a good story all the same, and Russ Savukus’s droning bass, Buffy’s wavering mouthbow and her trembling auld-Scots-style vocal cast dark overtones from the beginning; our worst fears are realised when we discover that the sailors are doomed to lie at the bottom of the ocean in a shipwreck. The end verse wid bring tears tae glass een: “And lang-o-lang may the ladies sit, With their gold combs all in their hair, A-waitin' for their good Scotch sailors, Who n'er will come no mair”.

Another folk traditional, “Lady Margaret”, further demonstrates Buffy's aptitude for the old form. The album peters out somewhat with a couple of unaffecting pieces - “Sometimes When I Get To Thinking” and “Winter Boy” - going down the country / songwriter route. Oh, for a full Buffy album of folkie traditionals…

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:29] 7.8.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Little Wheel Spin And Spin (Beverly Sainte-Marie) Folk
A2 [03:46] 7.1.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - House Carpenter (Traditional) Folk
A3 [03:50] 5.6.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Waly Waly (Traditional) Folk
A4 [03:32] 7.4.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Rolling Log Blues (Beverly Sainte-Marie, Lottie Kimbrough) Country
A5 [06:48] 6.8.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - My Country ’Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying (Beverly Sainte-Marie) Folk
A6 [02:02] 6.6.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Men Of The Fields (Beverly Sainte-Marie) Folk
B1 [02:46] 3.3.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Timeless Love (Beverly Sainte-Marie) Pop Ballad
B2 [05:14] 9.8.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Sir Patrick Spens (Traditional) Folk
B3 [02:57] 6.5.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Poor Man’s Daughter (Beverly Sainte-Marie) Folk
B4 [01:43] 8.0.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Lady Margaret (Traditional) Folk
B5 [03:37] 4.8.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Sometimes When I Get To Thinking (Beverly Sainte-Marie) Country
B6 [02:11] 4.6.png Buffy Sainte-Marie - Winter Boy (Beverly Sainte-Marie) Songwriter

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