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Perfect Welcome to December


"Native Americana" Artist Cary Morin's New Single Is the Perfect Welcome to December

By Terri Robertson
portrait of cary morin, acoustic blues artist holding a guitar in a field, wearing acowboy hat and denim shirt
Grayson Reed

Growing up in the vast and rugged landscape of Montana, "Native Americana" fingerstyle guitarist and songwriter Cary Morin was immersed in the art of Charles Marion Russell.  The famed Western artist of the late 1800s and early 1900s was a local hero in Great Falls and revered by Morin's father and grandfather.  Even the local high school was named after him.

"His work was everywhere; in our house, in businesses, on the walls of our families’ homes, and at the state capital. As a Montanan, knowing his work was the same as knowing the Montana mountains, rivers, and the big Montana sky,” says Morin, whose newly released single and music video "Indian Hunters Return" is inspired by one of Russell's paintings of Indigenous life.

The song is told from the perspective of a hunter who expresses gratitude at the prospect of returning home safely from the "long cold ride" with elk for everyone. With lyrics that reference the short days and snow that "stays on the ground," the song is a fitting welcome to December.

The tune is upbeat, but there is a sadness too as the hunter recounts a story from his journey—an encounter with a man mourning his only son. “We saw a man on a hilltop all alone / Far away / We could hear his song / I could tell he lost his only son / He’ll stay there to the bitter end,” he sings.

The second single from Morin's upcoming album, Innocent Allies, which pairs songs with Russell's artworks, "Indian Hunters Return" in particular stems from Morin's earliest memories of visiting his maternal grandfather Robert Yellowtail, a rancher and Crow tribal member who displayed a print of Russell's Indian Hunters Return in his home.

indian hunters return, painting by charles m russell
Indian Hunter’s Return by Charles M. Russell
Montana Historical Society

A snowy scene of teepees and bare cottonwood trees set against a cloudy sky, the painting includes a detail that the average observer might overlook: The returning hunters offer the first meal to a tribal elder, a gesture that is customary in Native American tribes.

Such attention to and respect for cultural details set Russell apart from other Western artists of the time. Though not Native himself (he moved to Montana from St. Louis at age 16 to pursue work as a cowboy), he was considered a friend to the Plains Tribes. His portrayals were dignified and nuanced, down to the "distinctive detail of regalia and hairstyles from tribe to tribe," notes Morin, who is a Crow tribal member with Assiniboine descent.

"As an Indigenous artist, I bring a perspective to this aspect of Charlie's work by way of this body of songs,” he says.

Now based in Colorado, Morin cowrote "Indian Hunters Return" with his son Eli while visiting family in Ohio. His 14-track album Innocent Allies, which also includes the single "Big Sky Sun Goes Down," was mixed and mastered by Grammy-winning producer Trina Shoemaker in Alabama. The album is due out January 26. 

 

Thanks to my sis-in-law Becky for this great song!

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