Your crusty chronicler is an individual who generally does his own thing. Still, when Examiner asked for support for their new “List” format, it was nigh impossible not to be open-minded about it. So, with the spirit of teamwork and unity in mind, your rockin’ reviewer presents this series—“Track by Track” in which we review certain select CDs literally “track by track”. This edition we examine Vanishing Americans by Indigenous.
For those not up on these independent Indians, Indigenous is an American blues-rock group that first hit the indie music scene back in 1998. The original band roster includes two brothers, Mato Nanji (lead vocals and guitar), Pte (bass guitar), their sister Wanbdi (drums, vocals) and their cousin Horse (percussion). They are all members of the Nakota Nation of South Dakota. Their current line-up includes Nanji, Jesse Bradman (organ and backing vocals), Jeff Martin (drums) and Steve Evans (bass).
(View the list to learn more about Kamp’s music.)
“Everything You Need”
The album opens on “Everything You Need”. This lead-in works well enough with a strong melodic guitar riff that sounds like it was written for radio. It draws the listener in with the obvious Hendrix influence and it also introduces the audience to the songwriting skills of Nanji and his wife Leah.
The second selection is title “Lonely Road”. This was written by Mato and Leah Nanji and co-producer Mike Varney. This tuneful tale of a broken, heavy heart going it alone was praised by critics. It also amply demonstrates what the Nanjis can do with a little help from their friends.
“Don’t Let Them Drive You Away”
The next number is “Don’t Let Them Drive You Away”. The speaker here is quite different than in the previous piece in that this is a song about a man in a committed relationship who is fighting against outside influences determined to tear them apart. “No matter what they”—he pleads—“don’t let them drive you away”.
“Cold Hearted Woman” and “Take Me Back”
The classic blues-tinged track “Cold Hearted Woman” is another relationship-related song. This one focuses on infidelity. It’s followed by the tune “Take Me Back” which is an upbeat track that lyrically nixes apologies with desires. These like almost all the other compositions on the CD were written by the Nanjis.
“Can’t Cry No More” and “Now That The Sunshine Is Gone”
“Can’t Cry No More” follows here. The musical message here seems to focus on reminding the listeners that life goes on and it’s not good to dwell on the past. It’s sometimes a difficult lesson to learn and the audience is once more reminded of this in the next song titled “Now That The Sunshine Is Gone”.
“In My Sights”
On “In My Sights” Nanji melds a noteworthy, memorable melody with a rock and roll rhythm in a song about finding that perfect mate. It’s not only reminiscent of earlier efforts but actually seems to demonstrate Nanji’s abilities to gather and cull together some of the best parts of previous releases.
“Always With You”
“Always With You” is the second selection co-composed by Mato and Leah Nanji and Varney. It’s perhaps one of the best songs on the disc and is not only a mover about devotion to another but it contains a memorable guitar solo that makes this one a fan favorite as well.
Your rockin’ reviewer would no doubt not be the first to note that the tenth tune, “Dark Days”, is a bit of an apocalyptic cut. Here the lyrical focus of the piece is on the main character’s realization that he needs to change his ways or the dark days just might get even darker.
“Don’t Be Afraid” & “I’ll Keep Standing”
Also included on the album are “Don’t Be Afraid” and “I’ll Keep Standing”. The former further shows fans how Nanji can merge efficient melodies with upbeat rock rhythms. The latter lyrically lays out another promise of devotion and includes another guitar solo that just fits well enough to make it another fan favorite.
“Moon Is Rising”
Oddly, the closing cut, “Moon Is Rising” is the only track on the disc that makes any obvious effort to mention anything “Indian”. Yes, his long-time fans realize that his music has no racial limits and goes beyond cultural boundaries but with the title Vanishing Americans and cover art that centers around a war bonnet others might just expect some type of sociological theme or commentary. This last piece seems long overdue here to say the least.
On the other hand, being too much of a preacher would no doubt draw criticism as well. At any rate, this Blues Bureau International release has a running time of almost 74 minutes and reveals both his roots influences of folks like R.L. Burnside as well as artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan. More importantly, it often makes it obvious why some people consider him one of the most mentionable musicians on the blues circuit today. One thing is certain; Nanji is working hard to make his music “Everything You Need”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.