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LA: Jonathan Wilson, Buffy Sainte-Marie

Thu., April 15, 10:00pm

Coming out of the same Toronto coffeehouse scene as Joni Mitchell & Neil Young in the early ’60s, Buffy Sainte-Marie was an impressive songwriter from the start, composing several notable tunes — such as the harrowing but beautifully chilling ballad “Codeine” — that were covered by Janis Joplin, Chet Atkins, Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Gram Parsons and Cher. But she also had a distinctive voice with a mesmerizing vibrato, as she sang fiery, contrarian anthems about Native American identity. Given her musical importance and considering how rarely Sainte-Marie tours, it would be a big event any time the Hawaiian-based singer comes to town.

But the fact that she’s still creatively thriving makes this more than a nostalgia fest. Her latest album, “Running for the Drum” (Appleseed Recordings), a transcontinental collaboration with the French musician-producer Chris Birkett, is a fascinating collision of genres and eras, juxtaposing unabashed love songs with politically defiant protest. “Blue Sunday” is a fast-stepping original that authentically evokes early rockabilly, while “No No Keshagesh” sounds like trip-hopping space disco. “Working for the Government” weaves together Sainte-Marie’s banshee wails, psychedelic dub bass and traditional tribal chanting into a punk-funk frenzy. The acoustic folk ramble “Little Wheel Spin and Spin” is less elaborately arranged, but it’s even more spellbinding.

Where: Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd.; L.A. CA

Also at Topanga Community House, Sat. Apr. 17.


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