Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota

Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota

5.0 1
by Marty Stuart

Native Americans remain the most marginalized segment of our society, their history and struggles rarely addressed in mainstream media. In Badlands, country rocker Marty Stuart steps up with a brave examination of the Lakota Sioux -- from the triumph at Little Big Horn to the horror of the Wounded Knee Massacre to the struggles on the Pine Ridge ReservationSee more details below


Native Americans remain the most marginalized segment of our society, their history and struggles rarely addressed in mainstream media. In Badlands, country rocker Marty Stuart steps up with a brave examination of the Lakota Sioux -- from the triumph at Little Big Horn to the horror of the Wounded Knee Massacre to the struggles on the Pine Ridge Reservation that are going on right now beneath the media's radar. The thundering, guitar-driven title track describes a plains environment barren of physical adornment but nonetheless capable of nurturing the spiritual resourcefulness that will carry the Sioux to a more prosperous time: "[T]he second coming of the red man is closer than it's ever been," Stuart cries in the key lyric. The sturdy, acoustic-laced shuffle of "Trip to Little Big Horn" lends a dramatic ambiance to a modern-day account of the ghosts still haunting the awe-inspiring spot where Custer's invaders were brutally vanquished. A near-seven-minute opus, "Broken Promise Land," recounts the Clinton administration's unfulfilled pledges to the Sioux nation, against an angry backdrop of shifting musical textures spiked with howling, trebly guitar protestations. The sad plight of today's community is outlined in two meditative, largely acoustic laments, "Casino" and the biting "So You Want to Be an Indian." These precede the ethereal, hymnlike "Walking Through Prayers," in which Stuart evokes the natural wonders of the land from which the Sioux gain strength. A buoyant finale, "Listen to the Children," closes this treatise on an upbeat note. Stirring, provocative, and beautiful, Badlands dares to posit music as a force for positive change. Marty Stuart deserves a medal.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Intention is everything. In the heart of an artist it stands where cynical, critical notice can cast aspersion. Marty Stuart has made an aesthetic life of living and creating from the heart of intention. Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota is his second album in 2005. His first, Souls' Chapel, was a rollicking, hard country record filtered through gospel music and sacred song. Badlands is no less a sacred endeavor, though it is a far more historical one, and these ballads of the great Lakota tribe are his own. He was guided by the Lakota people and their elders through the true, official record of their existence, not the account in the revisionist American textbooks, and this record has the tribe's blessing. He wrote these songs after being guided through the Lakota lands for a period of years by John L. Smith and the elders of this noble and persecuted tribe who adopted Stuart as family. History, spirituality, legend, the lineage of memory, shame, guilt, and transcendence pass through these songs in equal measure. Produced by Stuart with John Carter Cash, the set begins with elder Everette Helper's prayer song, and then jolts into the reeling crunch of the title track where country, rockabilly, and folk music meld together into an anthem that reveals both continuity and contradiction and top those whose views are short sighted. "Trip To Little Big Horn" is the story of Custer's Last Stand with a twist: presented as a dialogue with a ghost. Mandolins, acoustic guitars, and bass are tightly knit together to offer a story that is raw, yet elegant and pure. "Old Man's Vision" is a spoken word tale backed with spare, haunting guitar and drum atmospherics. The minor key shuffle that is "Wounded Knee" is as heartbreaking a song as Stuart has ever written; there is no cheap sloganeering or paltry politics here--this song is a prayer. Great pains were taken to make every line, every word, accurate historically, though the songwriter's craft remains intact. Check the track named for the great chief Big Foot, who died at Wounded Knee, with great backing vocals from Connie Smith. And on it goes through the "Broken Promise Land," the sad, folk tale "Hotchkiss Gunner's Lament," to the hard rocking "Broken Promise Land," and the sparse, ballad of outrage that is "Casino." "So You Want To BeAn Indian," is every bit as biting as Bob Dylan's "Hattie Carroll." The field recording that opens "Walking Through Prayers" is every bit as holy and moving a tune as anything on Souls' Chapel, but far more eerie and rooted in a world that is both seen and unseen. The fusing of Christian and Indian spirituality on the nine-plus minute "Three Chiefs" (Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse) may piss some off due to its unabashed view of the songwriter at the crossroads between the two. But it's in an opinion; a belief not in fundamentalist religiosity, but in the large vision of a God bigger than human understanding who loves outside the division of creed, color, or religion. The set essentially closes with "Listen To The Children," a sprawling rock anthem with Native overtones, strings, and screaming guitars. It's a fitting end, but it's not officially finished until the Lakota medicine man prays over the entire proceeding, blessing, closing, and sending it into the silence of the human soul and to the ears of those who have passed and hear on the wind. Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota is a milestone, a career achievement for Stuart, and an album that is unsettling, provocative, morally instructive, and deeply satisfying musically as a country record that sets the bar higher than it has been set in a long, long time.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Barry Gilbert
[Grade: B+] Stuart, using music ranging from modern country rock to Sioux chants, makes his case and proudly displays his affection for the Lakota people.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Universal South


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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Marty Stuart   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Mandolin,Electric Guitar
Connie Smith   Vocals
David Angell   Violin
Sam Bacco   Percussion
Connie Ellisor   Violin
Tony Harrell   Hammond Organ
Byron House   Bass
Anthony LaMarchina   Cello
Pamela Sixfin   Violin
Harry Stinson   Drums,Vocals,Track Performer
Robby Turner   Steel Guitar
Kenny Vaughan   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Track Performer
Kris Wilkinson   Viola
Mark Fain   Upright Bass
Brian Glenn   Bass,Vocals,Track Performer
Fabulous Superlatives   Track Performer
Carole A. Rabinowitz   Cello

Technical Credits

Marty Stuart   Composer,Producer,Art Direction
Jim DeMain   Mastering
Harry Stinson   Vocal Arrangements
Kris Wilkinson   String Arrangements
Karen Cronin   Art Direction
John Carter Cash   Producer
Chuck Turner   Engineer
Thomas Petillo   Session Photographer
Edward S. "Sherriff" Curtis   Cover Photo
Marvin Helper   Introduction

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