Bluedog’s new album reflects the lives and times of Native Americans

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The Bluedog Native Blues band rehearses in the Buffalohead family home sound room. From left to right are Eric and Joni Buffalohead, drummer Greg Mans, bass player Tom Seuss, and keyboarder Alex Buffalohead. (Photo by Lee Egerstrom.)

By Lee Egerstrom

The title of the forthcoming Bluedog band album shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone living in Indian Country. The title and message is a simple directive. Take a Stand.
“There is something happening every week, every hour in Indian Country,” said cofounder Eric Buffalohead.

That title is political, added cofounder Joni Weston Buffalohead. But, she said, “It reflects what’s going on.”

Take a Stand will be the fifth album from the Twin Cities-based blues and rock band, variously known as Bluedog Native Blues Band and Bluedog Blues Band, which was started by the Buffaloheads in 2001. The new CD is going through final touch-ups and should become available later in March or in April.

Blues music pours from the heart and in Indian Country that brings together people with the land and environment, the family said during a recent band rehearsal session at their home in Eagan.

That’s the compassion the accomplished Buffalohead family brings to their music. Take a closer look and you can see how everything fits under a “blues” sky.

Eric Buffalohead (White Eagle Southern Ponca Tribe from Oklahoma) is the lead guitarist and has been playing classic rock, blues, country, oldies and reggae for more than 20 years.

He also has a “day job,” associate professor and chair of American Indian Studies at Augsburg University in Minneapolis.

Blue Dog’s latest album is entitled “Red, White & Blues” and introduces all new songs, with guest musicians.

Joni Buffalohead, (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate from South Dakota) is the lead vocal singer and one of the songwriters for the group. She, too, has another life outside of music, working on improving health services throughout Indian Country. She is a managing director for Indigenous Pact, a firm that works with tribes and urban health groups on ways to improve financial support and health services for community health delivery and Medical Assistance Treatment (MAT) programs.

Compatible with that, Joni is board chair of the Indian Health Board of Minneapolis. And, wearing another hat, she is a board member of Vision Maker Media, a nonprofit based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that supports development and programming of Native programs for public television. Among groups helped by Vision Maker in recent years is Migizi Communications in Minneapolis.

Both she and her husband were teaching assistants at the University of Minnesota when they were working on their respective PhD degrees. They may have actually met as young children because their families knew each other. Eric’s father was the late Roger Buffalohead, head of the U’s American Indian Learning Resource Center, among his academic experiences.

Alexandra (Alex) Buffalohead is the newest member of the family to become a band member. Also enrolled at Bdewakantonwan/Dakota with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, she is the keyboard player and joins her mother as a singer and plays keyboard, organ and guitar.

“I took piano lessons when I was little,” she said. “It started with that.”

This musical background led to her joining the Bluedog band when she was 16. But music wasn’t her only life as she progressed through her teens and into young adulthood. Alex has a bachelor’s degree from Augsburg University in studio arts, an associate degree in graphic design from Art Institutes International Minneapolis, and last May she was awarded her master’s in art history and museum studies at the University of St. Thomas.

So what’s her “day job?” Alex is currently the manager of arts and cultural engagement for the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI) in Minneapolis. This after working as a graphic designer for the American Indian Cancer Foundation and in communications for the Indian Land Tenure Foundation.

Given those backgrounds, it is no sarcasm or musical criticism if fans, friends and acquaintances tell the Buffalohead family they shouldn’t give up their day jobs.
Joining them in the band are two long-time musicians from Minnesota.

Greg Mans, who described himself as a “retired computer geek,” is on drums. A second generation professional musician, he has vast past experiences starting in the Rochester and Southern Minnesota scene, then working with Twin Cities and Fargo bands, then with groups across the country before teaming with Bluedog.

Tom Suess, who grew up in the Twin Cities area, is on bass. He took guitar lessons when young and then started playing the 5-string bass while in Okinawa with the Marine Corps. He also does vocals and plays the harmonica.

The Take a Stand album will be a departure from the existing CDs the group has on the market. This 11 song CD showcases the bands exploration of the Blues, Rock and R & B genres. It also introduces all new songs but with guest musicians, Joni said. The guests are well known in Native American music circles.

One is Keith Secola, with Ojibwe ties to northern Minnesota and southern Ontario, who is a member of the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame. His “NDN KARS” song is the most requested on Native radio in the U.S. and Canada.

Another is John Michael Looking Wolf Reibach who teaches Native American flute at Oregon State University.

Two other guests are anchored in the Twin Cities music and Native American scene. Ted and Angie Vig own Vig Guitars musical instrument manufacturing firm in St. Paul. In addition, Angie is the lead vocalist and Ted is a guitarist with the local Bad Lucky Band.
Existing albums are available for sale and individual songs can be heard on Blue Dog’s website. They include the most recent Red, White and Blues, a 10-song CD from 2017; Just Living the Blues, five songs from 2011; Little White Lie, with 11 songs released in 2006; and From All Directions, the first release with nine songs from 2004.

Bluedog scheduled events for the next few months include appearances at the historic Neumann’s Bar and Grill in North St. Paul, the Wicked Word Brewing Co. in Robbinsdale, Al’s Center Saloon in Center City, Tally’s Dockside at CJ Hook’s in White Bear Lake, among others. And farther out, the band has two appearances scheduled for Jackpot Junction Casino at Morton in June.

Details of the band’s appearances and their albums can be found on their website at: www.bluedognativeblues.com.