Redbone The Essentials


CD Review: The Essential Redbone is very essentialIn The News, Indigenous In Music CD • Formed in 1968 in Los Angeles, California, by the brothers Patrick Vasquez (bass and vocals) and Lolly Vasquez (guitar and vocals), the name Redbone itself is a joking reference to a Cajun term for a mixed-race person, the band’s members being of mixed blood ancestry. The band referenced Cajun and New Orleans culture many times in their lyrics and performing style. So you might believe that but as a Native man, I know which bone they were talking about. “Redbone played primarily rock music with R&B, Cajun, Jazz, tribal, and Latin roots . . . Lolly Vasquez was one of the first guitarists to make extensive use of the distinctive Leslie rotating speaker effect in his electric guitar amplification set-up. Vegas played improvised, jazz-influenced guitar. Drummer Peter DePoe is credited with pioneering the “King Kong” style of drumming, which features sharply accented polyrhythm’s involving the bass and snare drums and is similar to funk styles of drumming. The band referred to DePoe’s “King Kong Beat” in their lyrics to the song “Prehistoric Rhythm” on their debut album. The recent re-release of this great Redbone material starts out with the song Light As A Feather which is a song that has roots in all of the great old New Orleans R-n-B and features great use of guitar effects and the rhythm section is already burning’ down the house.The third track on this CD is Come And Get Your Love, the Redbone disco dance, rock classic and it is a taste of those times and it makes my heart skip a beat in remembering how it felt to be young and optimistic on my way to the club lookin’ to snag. There is much emphasis on dancing in the material of the band because Native people all understand how important it is to dance. I love the vocal intro that segues into one of the classic guitar hooks of all time, guitar with a sitar sound effect on it. I dig the bass lines of all of their material; Pat Vegas could really play some bass guitar. He’s the one that separates this material from plain old rock and roll and gives it the funk of R-n-B. The sixth Track Maggie is another solid hit for Redbone and has roots in the Cajun New Orleans tradition of music and the inhabitants of the French Quarter. Maggie is a lady of the night. “Nobody cries when Maggie dies.” They fade on a hard jam with lots of syncopation and the 600-watt Leslie rotating speaker on full tilt. One of my faves Message From A Drum starts with a tribal vocal chant over rolling drums and segues into a beautiful flute melody with a sentiment that reflects an intense and profound spirituality regarding friendship and love. “It hurts to find some people un-kind.” The song Fais Do refers to . . . “a Cajun dance party, originating before World War II. According to Mark Humphrey the parties were named for “the gentle command (‘go to sleep’) young mothers offered bawling infants.” The boys sing, “Dance under the voodoo moon, dance out of your body groove, dance into your spirit too.”
The song Jerico is not in reference to the ancient city in the West Bank, with historical and Biblical significance, but in this case is an autobiographical piece on growing up in a suburb of Fresno, CA. “Growing up drinking and stealing”
My old band Ahbleza used to perform the Redbone song Wovoka as a part of our act. “Wovoka (1856 – September 20, 1932), also known as Jack Wilson, was the Northern Paiute leader who founded the Ghost Dance movement. Wovoka means, “wood cutter” in the Northern Paiute language. Wovoka was born in Smith Valley area southeast of Carson City, Nevada, around the year 1856. Wovoka gained a reputation as a powerful medicine man early in adulthood and is now perceived to have been adept at magic tricks. One feat he often performed was being shot with a shotgun, which may have been similar to the bullet catch “trick”. Reports of this feat potentially convinced the Lakota that their “ghost shirts” could stop bullets.Wovoka taught that in order to bring his vision to pass the Native Americans must live righteously and perform a traditional round dance, known as the Ghost dance, in a series of five-day gatherings. Important to note is that Wovoka’s preaching included messages of non-violence. Red bone asserts in the voice of the great Native prophet, “All people must dance, keep on dancing keep on dancing, all people must sing, keep on singing, keep on singing for the good times to come.” The last track on The Essential Redbone is Chant: 13th Hour which starts with the Gothic drone of Native monks but moves smoothly into a traditional chant that totally rocks over traditional drum and bells, ending abruptly and ripping into a funk-rock groove that absolutely defines the band. As they jam on into the night they sing, “Spread your wings and fly, the future’s ours.”

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