Infinite ~ WindPoem V now available!

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Infinite ~ WindPoem V ~ Native American Flute Meditations, the latest album from C.S. Fuqua in his  WindPoem Native American Flute Meditations series, features 68 minutes of meditative and relaxing music, celebrating the Native American flute as a solo and World Fusion music instrument. Nine Native American flute instrumentals and four multi-instrument cuts highlight the versatility of the Native American flute. Please visit https://youtu.be/o7fpRIRIKkg for a five-minute preview of the album.

In keeping with tradition, Infinite‘s instrumentals incorporate nature and other ambient background sounds to complement the Native American flute. In addition, Infinite represents an expansion of WindPoem sound with the addition of multiple instruments, including guitar, koto, bass, and more on four of the instrumentals. The remaining nine cuts feature solo and multiple native flutes. A haunting instrumental arrangement of the traditional song “Amazing Grace” closes the album. Infinite features wooden and bamboo Native American flutes custom-crafted by Fuqua.

Fuqua has researched and published extensively on the history, mythology, and crafting of the Native American flute, and has authored The Native American Flute: Myth, History, Craft and the illustrated manual Native American Flute Craft. With a background as newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and author, Fuqua has published widely in nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, with fourteen books currently in print. The first WindPoem album was released in 2014. For more information, please visit http://csfuqua.com.

Fuqua is available for presentations the history, mythology, and music of the Native American flute. Presentations are offered free to Las Cruces area public schools and youth organizations. For more more information, please contact him at fuqua.cs@gmail.com.

Digital and CD sales:
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The iTunes WindPoem storehttps://itunes.apple.com/us/author/c-s-fuqua/id507470171?mt=11

Ancestors ~ WindPoem IV ~ Native American Flute Meditations

Ancestors ~ WindPoem IV ~ Native American Flute Meditations is now available through Bandcamp and coming to other CD and digital music stores, including Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and others. It will soon be streamable through internet music services, including Pandora, Deezer, and more. The album features nine Native American flute instrumentals—53 minutes of music—perfect for meditation and relaxation. View the trailer below. Preview the entire album at Bandcamp.

Ancestors instrumentals feature Tegan Fuqua on percussion and C.S. Fuqua on wooden and bamboo Native American flutes, both single-barrel and double-barrel (drone) flutes custom-crafted by C.S. Fuqua. In keeping with tradition, some tunes incorporate nature and other ambient background sounds. “Grandfather” also features a Hang tank drum. Several cuts include contrabass flute that may not be rendered adequately through laptop speakers and some earbuds due to speaker low frequency limitations.

Ancestors is available today from Createspace  in CD format for $10.95 plus shipping and Kunaki for $5 plus shipping. Available soon at Amazon. If you want the best CD price, Kunaki is the place to go—the total less than the Amazon and Createspace base price before shipping! 

The digital album is available for immediate download from Bandcamp and Kunaki for $8 and will soon be available from iTunes, Amazon, Soundcloud, and many others. 

Ancestors will soon be streamable at Pandora, Deezer, Spotify, and a host of other streaming services.

Please spread the word!

Popular mythology portrays the primary historical use of the Native American flute as a courting instrument used by men, but the courting aspect was only one of the flute’s functions, much like a guitar or any other instrument, and it certainly was not an instrument limited to use strictly by men. Men and women played the native flute for entertainment, in fertility rites, during celebrations and mourning rituals, and simply as a distraction. WindPoem albums celebrate the flute’s rich and inclusive heritage. 

For more information on the history, mythology, and crafting of the instrument, check out Chris’s books, The Native American Flute: Myth, History, Craft and Native American Flute Craft, available through most local and online bookstores.

WindPoem III was slated to be final album in the WindPoem series to feature strictly native flute meditations. Plans obviously changed. I hope you enjoy the results.

Chris is available for musical and historical presentations regarding the Native American flute. For more more information, please contact him by clicking the email icon.

The Pretendian Phenomenon

Claiming Native American Ancestry

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Iron Eyes Cody, perhaps the most famous of Pretendians.

“Brother’s got high cheekbones!”

“Sister’s hair’s jet black and straight!”

“Granddaddy looks like Geronimo!”

I’ve heard it all my life—relatives claiming Native American ancestry. Officially, we’re white, “but we got Indian blood in us from way back,” so they say. In 2015, a Pew Research Center study revealed that at least half of all U.S. adults who identify as multiracial are whites claiming Native American ancestry—that’s 8.5 million people! In a 2016 Fusion.net article, Native Peoples magazine editor Taté Walker pointed out the obvious. For that many whites to have Native American ancestry, American Indians would have to be “getting it on with everybody.”

Some claims of native ancestry are legitimate. Most others, not so much—and there’s a name for the people making them: Pretendians.

Claiming native ancestry isn’t new, but white claims of being a quarter or less Native American have skyrocketed in recent years. Asked for proof, those claiming ancestry resort to family lore and physical attributes like high cheekbones. Moreover, these wannabe Indians readily feign extensive knowledge of whatever tribe they claim. They buy, display, and wear stereotypical garb and trinkets as though every Indian in America purchased their clothes and jewelry at interstate tourist traps, but these Pretendians don’t engage in the native culture. Instead, they profess their nativeness, especially on social media, by coining outlandish “Indian” names like Howling Wolf Tree, Badger Womyn, and Eagle Feather Heart. (Get your own ridiculous “Indian” handle with the online name generator at http://www.lingerandlook.com/Names/FictionNames2.htm.) If their claims are questioned, Pretendians shore up their authenticity with inaccurate knowledge of Indian culture and history based on popular myth and stereotypes, demonstrating little or no fact-based understanding of past or present native issues. They will even attack true native descendants as imposters to make themselves appear genuine.

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A few years ago, a distant relative who’s researched our mutual genealogy put authority to our family’s claims to native heritage, discovering two Muscogee women in my paternal grandfather’s ancestry. “I’m still working on documenting it, but, after all,” he told me, “we have a great-great-great grandfather who traded with Indians up and down the river.” How trading anything other than a certain bodily fluid gets native genetics into a person’s DNA is beyond my understanding, but the claim, he insisted, had been validated. We could check with clear conscience those white and Native American ethnicity boxes on job and other applications.

White folks claim native ancestry for a variety of reasons, including a romanticized view of native culture and people. Take the Native American flute as an example. It’s mystical, haunting, spiritual! It touches our ancient soul. According to one of several creation myths, it was given to native men for use in courting women, a fairytale now accepted by most as fact. Besides misogynistic, the myth-as-history is preposterous. In reality, the flute’s place in native culture was and remains broad, from entertainment to courting to fertility rites to greeting visitors—like any other instrument ever made. The story, however, fits well into the Pretendian narrative that embraces myths promoted by European invaders, myths designed to undermine native women’s cultural status. Europeans ensured general acceptance of chosen myths-as-history through systematic destruction and replacement of native culture and values with European nonsense now accepted by many Pretendians as fact.

Based on assumed nativeness, Pretendians have even developed a sense of political correctness regarding aspects of their claimed heritage. When I began crafting Native American flutes twenty-five years ago, the instrument was known simply as a Native American flute. In recent years, a movement among mostly Pretendians contends that Native American flutes can be crafted only by Native Americans. If you’re non-native and claim no native ancestry, the flute you make must be termed a Native American style flute. If we accept such skewed logic, then non-Europeans can craft only a recorder or transverse style flute, and non-Spaniards can make only Spanish style guitars.

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By far, Cherokee is the most claimed of all Native American ancestry. The 2000 U.S. federal census reported that 729,522 Americans claimed Cherokee heritage. By 2010, the number had increased to 819,105, some 70 percent of them—white folks—declaring mixed race. I grew up in southern Alabama and northwest Florida, so this statistic is no surprise. Bring up native culture in conversation, and someone will claim native heritage. Nine out of ten times, that heritage will be Cherokee, usually “traced” to an Indian princess—never mind that no such status ever existed.

Throughout the country’s history since the European invasion, Americans have used mixed-race status for personal advantage. For example, a person with African American and white heritage who looked white would usually pass as white to avoid discrimination to rise in society as only whites could do. Even today, most people who have less than twenty-eight percent African-American ancestry, according to a 2014 23andMe genetics study, claim white-only heritage. Conversely, whites are increasingly quick to claim native ancestry in an effort to gain perceived minority advantages in employment or scholarships. Making the claim is easy. Since 2000, the Census Bureau has allowed people to check multiple boxes for race and ethnicity without proof or validation.

This kind of ethnic multi-checking has created an alternate reality for native heritage. Until recently, tribes determined membership on whether a person spoke the language and followed cultural practices which defined cultural affinity with the tribe. As white claims rose, blood quantum became the standard determinant. If one grandparent, for example, belonged to a tribe but the other three grandparents did not, a person was considered to have one-quarter blood quantum. Before 1963, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians allowed anyone with at least one-thirty-second blood quantum (one great-great-great native grandparent) to join the tribe, but the claim had to be documented. You couldn’t just check a box. After 1963, the standard increased to one-sixteenth.

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Before the mid-1800s, the Cherokee were the south’s most populace tribe, numbering around 16,000. But they had something whites wanted—land for farming and gold mining. And let’s not forget racial prejudice. These were local Indians after all, substandard humans in the European mindset. To appease white desire, the U.S. government in 1838 and 1839 forcibly removed the southern Cherokee to the Indian Territory in what later became Oklahoma. After removal and as tensions rose between north and south in the run-up to the Civil War, whites realized an advantage in claiming Cherokee ancestry, insisting these claimed ancestors had escaped forced removal to hide, remain, and marry in the south. Official records, however, indicate that few, if any, Cherokee escaped removal, although 4,000 died on the Trail of Tears en route to the Indian Territory. Claiming Cherokee ancestry enabled southerners to step out of their role as oppressor by legitimizing themselves as native born rather than of European origin. The claim thereby relieved them of guilt for what they’d done to the actual Cherokee and established a delusional native right to defend their despotic system of slavery from an “aggressive” federal government.

This delusional mindset has had a long shelf life. It’s evident today in southern Pretendians’ defense of the rebel battle flag as heritage not hate and their unyielding support of political candidates who promote xenophobic and racist ideology. Claiming ownership of an imagined native past allows these whites to forgive themselves for their European ancestors’ aggression against native peoples and their own present-day assaults against different cultures, races, and ethnicities.

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Claimed ancestry became a political issue in 1924 when Virginia politicians were forced to address matters of mixed-race rights. The state’s Racial Integrity Act at the time banned marriage between whites and members of any other race, defining people as white only if their “blood is entirely white, having no known, demonstrable, or ascertainable admixture of blood of another race.” That put a kink into claims of ancestral links to Pocahontas by prominent white Virginia families. Generationally, if the claims were true, it meant family members were at most one-sixteenth native. The Virginia legislature therefore amended the Racial Integrity Act with the “Pocahontas Exception,” allowing white families to claim native ancestry to Pocahontas but still be classified as white. Conversely, those with one-sixteenth African American ancestry could not claim white status and remained designated as black.

According to Native American journalist Mary Annette Pember, claims to Cherokee ancestry went nationwide during the twentieth century, thanks to Tinsel Town. Hollywood movies made the Cherokee acceptable to people outside the south by civilizing the tribe. In 1971, a popular Keep America Beautiful ad campaign established Iron Eyes Cody, The Crying Indian, as the quintessential image of Native America, a tear rolling down his cheek as he mourned environmental destruction. Cody famously traced his heritage to the Trail of Tears and a Cherokee grandfather who purportedly worked with the Confederate outlaw band, Quantrill’s Raiders. Cody made no personal claim to glory, however, calling himself just another Injun who left the reservation to find success in Hollywood. After he’d portrayed Indians in more than 200 films, the public discovered that Iron Eyes Cody’s heritage did not trace to the Trail of Tears after all, that he’d never lived on a reservation, that he was actually Espera Oscar de Corti, a Louisiana-born actor with 100 percent Sicilian ancestry—not a drop of Indian blood.

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The three federally recognized Cherokee tribes—Untied Keetoowa Band, Cherokee Nation, and the Eastern Band of Cherokees—have a combined population of 344,700 members, most living in close-knit communities in eastern Oklahoma and North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. Although becoming a Pretendian may seem harmless, it has consequences beyond a wink and snicker. In the workplace, whites can be hired based in part on claimed heritage, taking a position that should be filled by someone of true native heritage. Iron Eyes Cody is a good example. His success at playing an Indian prevented true Native Americans from landing roles that should’ve been theirs.

To address increasing claims of ancestry, the Cherokee Nation has created a task force to deal with false assertions by individuals seeking official recognition, leading one investigator to theorize that many Pretendians are simply seeking a sense of place and connection. The problem is, the only way some know how to achieve such connection is to buy it and own it. Heritage is not such a commodity.

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Pretendians may be fully sincere in their romanticized native view of nature and spirituality. Their appeal vanishes, however, when they use their nativeness to justify or forgive disturbing personal traits. Sociologist Herbert Gans in 1979 coined the phrase symbolic ethnicity to describe the act of white Americans claiming native identity without changing behavior or suffering social consequences. The practice is pervasive, exemplified by Native American heritage clubs that have no members of documented ancestry and by Pretendians claiming heritage for reasons of employment or scholarship benefits. For them, ethnicity is voluntary, a piece of clothing that can be put on or taken off at will, unlike skin.

As America becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, whites unwilling to accept their changing status search for a collective identity of ancestral place and culture to link to the world they live in and to justify personal racism toward other groups. The recent presidential election provided a national stage upon which many whites who claim Native American ancestry could express racism and xenophobia without regard to decency, empathy, or societal restriction. Many Pretendians on social media professed steadfast support for Native Americans protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) while vehemently condemning similar groups such as Black Lives Matter and opposing anti-discrimination legislation designed to protect women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals. They adorned their social media pages with rebel flags and politically hateful slogans, many supporting Donald Trump despite his business investment in DAPL and his pledge to proceed with the original DAPL route, ignoring Native American rights by reversing President Obama’s order to determine an alternate route .

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For all the claims of indigenous blood, ancestry no longer needs to be a mystery. We can easily determine by DNA analysis whether we have native ancestry—which is exactly what I did last year. Forget those two native women in my paternal grandfather’s ancestry, and don’t give the Indian trader a second thought. Thanks to DNA testing, I know the truth. I’m as white as a person gets. 

When I informed the relative who’d “discovered” the perceived native ancestry, he replied, “Another genealogist in the family feels strongly there’s Indian blood. So we just have to continue to wonder.” 

No, we don’t. 

Pay no mind to high cheekbones. 

Ignore hair color or texture. 

And Granddaddy? He looks like Granddaddy. 

Science is a marvelous thing. It doesn’t depend on faith, myth, or family lore. Science relies solely on fact—like climate change or gravity. Sure, you can board the bus of denial, but every time it’s driven off the cliff of reality, it will crash to the ground below.

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Sources

Bryc, Katarzyna et al. “The Genetic Ancestry of African Americans, Latinos, and European Americans across the United States.” The American Journal of Human Genetics , Volume 96 , Issue 1 , 37 – 53.

Cobb, Russell. “Why Do So Many People Pretend to Be Native American?” Longreads, This Land Press, 19 Jan. 2015, blog.longreads.com/2014/08/04/why-do-people-continue-to-fashion-native-identities-out-of-thin-air/.

Day, Meagan. “No, You Are Not Part Cherokee. And Neither Is Elizabeth Warren.” Timeline, 5 July 2016, timeline.com/part-cherokee-elizabeth-warren-cf6be035967e#.lzpra1dux.

Fuqua, C. S. Native American Flute Craft: Ancient to Modern. Cooperative Ink, 2015.

—. The Native American Flute: Myth, History, Craft. Cooperative Ink, 2012.

Garrison, Tim Alan. “Cherokee Removal.” New Georgia Encyclopedia, 19 Oct. 2004, www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/cherokee-removal.

Hakala, Kate. “Why Do So Many People Claim They Have Cherokee In Their Blood?” Nerve, 27 Nov. 2014, www.nerve.com/life/why-do-so-many-people-claim-they-have-cherokee-in-their-blood.

Hu, Elise. “Minority Rules: Who Gets To Claim Status As A Person Of Color?” NPR, 16 May 2012, www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2012/05/16/152822762/minority-rules-who-gets-to-claim-status-as-a-person-of-color.

McLaughlin, Michael. “Trump Supports Dakota Access Pipeline. Did We Mention He’s Invested In It?” Huffington Post, 2 Dec. 2016. Web. 21 Dec. 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-dakota-access-pipeline-investment_us_5841d8f9e4b09e21702e8f58.

Moya-Smith, Simon. “The ‘Part Cherokee’ Factor: Pew Survey Misrepresents Indian Country, Critics Say.” Indian Country Today Media Network, 12 June 2015, indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/06/12/part-cherokee-factor-pew-survey-misrepresents-indian-country-critics-say-160712.

“Pretendian.” Urban Dictionary, 10 Oct. 2010, www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pretendian.

Pulley, By Anna. “Why Do So Many White People Claim to Be Native American?” Fusion, 11 Mar. 2016, http://fusion.net/story/279637/white-people-claiming-native-identity/.

Siek, Stephanie. “Who’s a Native American? It’s Complicated.” Cable News Network, 14 May 2012, inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/14/whos-a-native-american-its-complicated/.

TNO Staff. “White Americans have Remained ‘Shockingly European’ Despite Decades of Pro-Racial Mixing Propaganda, New DNA Study Reveals.” The New Observer, 14 Jan. 2015, newobserveronline.com/white-americans-remained-shockingly-european-despite-decades-pro-racial-mixing-propaganda-new-dna-study-reveals/.

Zimmer, Carl. “White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier.” The New York Times, 24 Dec. 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/science/23andme-genetic-ethnicity-study.html?_r=0.

Muscle Shoals: The Hit Capital’s Heyday & Beyond

From Dexter Johnson’s garage studio to James Joiner’s “A Fallen Star,” Tune Records to FAME and Muscle Shoals Sound studios, Aretha Franklin to the Rolling Stones and the Black Keys, from the beginning to present day—Muscle Shoals: The Hit Capital’s Heyday & Beyond is an updated, expanded version of Music Fell on Alabama, the original book-length history of the Muscle Shoals music industry, first published in 1991, chronicling the cooperation of black and white producers and artists during one of the most volatile times in U.S. race relations, cooperation that produced many of the most celebrated and enduring songs of all time.

Much has been written about the Muscle Shoals music industry and even a movie produced, most accounts crediting the area’s phenomenal success to some mystical power divined from the Tennessee River. Myth makes for good drama, but Muscle Shoals: The Hit Capital’s Heyday & Beyond details the true source of the industry’s success: the tenacious determination of talented individuals obsessed with the desire to make a difference in music.

And what a difference they made…

Purchase Muscle Shoals: The Hit Capital’s Heyday & Beyond online at Amazon.com, Kobobooks.com, B&N, and other retailers. Muscle Shoals can also be ordered through most local retail bookstores.

Enter Edward Herda’s World of Vaughn Frogg

When it comes to new music these days, it takes a special talent and sound to excite me. I’m weary of the fragile, breathless female pop voices, the auto-tuned dimwittedness of those who can’t or are too lazy to sing, and the half-whispered, near falsetto pretense of male “singer-songwriters.” When an artist with a distinctive style comes along, writing and performing songs that are both pleasing to the ear and intellectually stimulating, I listen. I listen with delight.

A few days ago, an email query came in on a guitar I have for sale. The writer made no mention of his profession, but his email address contained his URL. I took a look, and I’m glad I did.

Edward Herda is an LA-based musician and songwriter who recently released his first album, The Wondrous Folly of Vaughn Frogg. The album’s increasingly drawing attention—with good reason. Besides a playful charm that suits the stage well, Herda’s developed a distinctive vocal and instrumental style that pays homage to American roots music while exploring new directions in lyrical storytelling. Pigeonholing his music would be a disservice because of its appeal beyond any single category. It’s best simply to listen and go where the music takes you.

In a recording so intimate that, if you close your eyes, you can almost believe he’s in the room singing only for you, Herda and his band’s perfection on Frogg is satisfying and complete. The album features Herda on guitar, banjo, mandolin, baritone, and harmonica; Max Allyn on bass, percussion, guitar, piano, baritone, ukulele, and saw; Leah Kouba on vocals; Matt Bradford on Dobro and lap slide; and Diane Hobstetter on accordion.

Herda’s artistic endeavors include stand-up comedy, work as a creative director, and now music. He fancies himself a storyteller which is evident in his song lyrics, proceeding in unexpected, but logical directions that keep the listener guessing where his tales will end up. With Kouba’s haunting harmonies augmenting Herda’s warm vocal, the songs offer a new, and yet comfortably familiar sound. Each presents a self-contained tale within the album’s overall narrative, culminating in the final track, “Searching,” a contemplation on the quest to find one’s soul mate.

Frogg—alternative folk, country folk, alternative country, or whatever you want to tag it—is not for anyone looking to have music strictly as background noise. Herda’s songs, as he points out, are for “folks who care to listen.” Each of the dozen songs on Vaughn Frogg is well worth the time it takes.

As for the guitar sale, it didn’t work out, but that’s okay. I’m up in the game with the addition to my library of superb new music by this talented artist. But if you know someone looking for a collectible, unique Gibson LG-2 guitar, send her or him my way. A good deal awaits. (Update: That deal has been snatched up by a lucky fellow in New Mexico.)

To purchase The Wondrous Folly of Vaughn Frogg in CD or download format, and for more information about Edward Herda’s music and performance dates/venues, please visit his website at http://www.edwardherda.com.

JD Fox releases Spooner Oldham tribute CD

Note: Spooner Oldham’s contributions to music are noted in Alabama Musicians: Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie. For further information on Alabama Musicians, detailing the history of native Alabamians’ contributions to music and featuring dozens of biographies, please visit Amazon.com.

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Casual fans of rock and soul music may not know the man by name, but Spooner Oldham is a star among stars who’s now inspired Belgian recording artist JD Fox to release a tribute CD in honor of the keyboardist and his career. Born in Alabama in 1943, Dewey Lyndon Oldham, better known as Spooner, grew up listening to the usual radio fare for his time and geography, from Fats Domino to Jerry Lee Lewis, from country to gospel. In the late 1950s, he began attending the University of North Alabama but became more interested in the developing local recording industry. Oldham met fellow Alabamian Dan Penn in Muscle Shoals around 1959, and the two men struck up a song-writing partnership while Oldham began playing keyboards as a studio musician for FAME Studio, joining David Hood, Roger Hawkins, and Jimmy Johnson as the early rhythm section that defined the studio’s sound by backing soul artists on songs such as “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Mustang Sally,” and “I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You).”

By the late 1960s, Oldham had moved to Memphis where he and Penn continued their partnership, writing numerous songs that would become hits for the time and standard play even on today’s radio stations, from “I’m Your Puppet” and “The Dark End of the Street” to “Cry Like a Baby” and “A Woman Left Lonely,” among many others. The team wrote, by their estimate, nearly 500 songs, certainly enough to define a career as successful, but Oldham wasn’t finished and moved to Los Angeles to begin yet another phase in his musical life, playing keyboards for dozens of top artists over the years, including Neil Young, Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and Bob Dylan, to name a few. In 2009, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Oldham to honor him for his long service as a sideman.

Born in 1957 in Ghent, Belgium, Jan de Vos, professionally known as JD Fox, developed an early passion for southern soul and especially for Oldham’s piano and organ work that became a defining element of music produced in the Shoals. Choosing to pursue a career in music, Fox served as drummer from the late 1970s through the early 1980s for The Machines, Belgium’s number one pop band, which recorded three albums, their first, A World of Machines, cut at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London, England. In 1989, he joined the heavy rock band Derek & The Dirt, recording three albums before his departure. In 1991, he became a singer-guitarist, combining American roots music with French lyrics, recording one album with the band Paris, Texas, and three solo albums. During that time, he developed an even keener admiration and respect for Oldham’s song-writing ability and recorded one of Oldham’s songs in 2004, “Genie in the Jug,” in French, an effort that netted personal praise from Oldham.

In 2007, Fox decided he’d had enough and said goodbye to the music business, but his love for Oldham’s songs led to him to contact Oldham personally. Reenergized by the keyboardist, Fox decided to record one more CD, this one to honor the man who had been such an inspiration throughout Fox’s life and career. The result is the newly released CD, The Roadmaster: A Tribute to Spooner Oldham, the title derived from Oldham’s song, “The Roadmaster.”

On the CD’s first twelve songs, Fox teamed up with Holland roots musicians, the Sunset Travelers. For the thirteenth song, “I’m Not Through Loving You Yet,” Fox lived a dream come true. “The icing on the cake,” Fox says, “was a trip to the Shoals, where I recorded [“I’m Not Throughout Loving You Yet”] with the Roadmaster himself. It was an honor, a privilege, and a thrill to sit next to him at the piano.”

The Roadmaster, Fox says, is a return to basics, celebrating Oldham’s songs by presenting them in their intended forms, with simple arrangements, straightforward production, and unadorned vocals. To hear samples and to purchase The Roadmaster, please visit CD Baby.

Michael G. Allen of Coyote Oldman

In the mid-1980s, I became acquainted with Native American flute music through the instrumental musings of Coyote Oldman, purportedly an Oklahoma-based duo specializing in “new age” music that utilized native flutes backed by electronic soundscapes. A few years later, I played a cedar flute crafted by Michael Graham Allen, Coyote Oldman’s flautist, and I was hooked. The sound that came from that flute was indescribable, a sound that touched something deep in my psyche. On a tight budget then as I am now (some things never change, especially for writers), I couldn’t afford the retailer’s price, but neither could I simply walk away from such beauty of sound. So I began researching Native American flute craft, but little instructive material existed at the time. Through trial and error and by studying various flutes I chanced across, I finally discovered a method for crafting a decent sounding flute—all thanks to the inspiration of Michael’s music and artistry.

Jump ahead nearly twenty years. I’ve spent the last year researching and writing a new book for The History Press, entitled Alabama Musicians: Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie, which details the vast influence of Alabama artists on music past and present. In August, I submitted the book’s final draft, which (acceptably) exceeded the specified length by a thousand words. Around the same time, I learned that Michael G. Allen had teamed with David Lanz and Gary Stroutsos to soon release a new Coyote Oldman CD, entitled Time Travelers. Searching the internet for more information, I discovered that Michael G. Allen is not Oklahoma-based as I’d read many years ago, but a resident and native of Alabama—which meant that a book designed to spotlight Alabama’s musical innovators did not mention a word about one of the most influential pioneers of our time, an artist arguably most responsible for popularizing the native flute worldwide. After a few e-mail exchanges, the editor  allowed me to slip in an entry on Michael.

Michael began Coyote Oldman collaborations in 1985 with Barry Stramp, who provided electronic soundscapes for Michael’s flutes. Each album since 1986’s groundbreaking Tear of the Moon has further explored and developed the range of native flutes, each flute used in the recordings impeccably crafted by Michael. Time Travelers, released in October 2011, utilizes Michael’s handmade replicas of ancient desert and Anasazi flutes in extended studio improvisations with David Lanz on keyboards and Gary Stroutsos on Chinese xiao and dizi flutes to create an album that’s deeply contemplative and moving.

Michael’s interest in, research of, and devotion to ancient North American flutes began in the 1970s as he traveled throughout the U.S. to become a primary force in their reintroduction, refinement, and popularization. With few traditional musicians or craftsmen at the time, Michael learned to craft and play native flutes by studying and copying artifacts housed in museums and collections around the country. In 1981, he met and developed a deep friendship with Dr. Richard Payne, another researcher instrumental in popularizing the native flute. Payne had developed much of his ability in the 1930s, learning from Kiowa elder, Belo Cozad, who had been taught by Oldman Turkey in the late 1800s. Collaborating with Payne until Payne’s death in 2004, Michael became and remains one of the world’s foremost authorities on native flute history, craft, and music.

Michael’s handcrafted flutes have introduced a number of musical innovations, from tuned pentatonic, multi-keyed and bass Plains style flutes to double flutes and experimental flutes. His current efforts include the reintroduction of ancient rim-blown flutes to wider audiences both through his music and custom-crafted instruments. He’s available to lecture on the history of North American flutes at colleges and music events around the country. For more information about Coyote Oldman flutes and music, please visit the Coyote Oldman website.

Michael is one of the many Alabama musical innovators featured in more detail in Alabama Musicians: Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie. In the coming months, others will be featured here, including Spooner Oldham and Belgian artist JD Fox who will soon release a tribute album featuring Oldham’s music. To purchase Alabama Musicians, please visit Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or any online or brick-and-mortar bookstore.