Martha Redbone—Bone Hill: The Concert
Native & African-American vocalist/songwriter/composer/educator Martha Redbone is known for her unique gumbo of folk, blues, and gospel from her childhood in Harlan County, Kentucky, infused with the eclectic grit of pre-gentrified Brooklyn. Inheriting the powerful vocal range of her gospel-singing African American father and the resilient spirit of her mother’s Cherokee/Shawnee/Choctaw culture, Redbone broadens the boundaries of American Roots music. With songs and storytelling that share her life experience as a Native and Black woman and mother in the new millennium, Redbone gives voice to issues of social justice, bridging traditions from past to present, connecting cultures, and celebrating the human spirit.
Her album, The Garden of Love—Songs of William Blake, produced by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder/Grammy Winner John McEuen is an unexpected twist—“a brilliant collision of cultures” (The New Yorker)—Redbone’s magnificent voice, Blake’s immortal words, and a masterful cornucopia of roots music (blues, gospel, bluegrass, soul and traditional Southeastern Woodlands). Featured on “All Things Considered,” the album released on her own imprint Blackfeet Productions rose to the top ten on Amazon Folk Charts for many weeks and has become the bedrock of her live shows bringing audiences to their feet with her fiery old-time mountain gospel singing and foot-stomping energy.
Redbone and her long-term collaborator/husband, composer/pianist/producer Aaron Whitby are called “the little engine that could [by their] band of NYC’s finest blues and jazz musicians” (Larry Blumenthal/Wall Street Journal). From grassroots beginnings at powwows across Indian Country, and in the underground clubs of NYC, Redbone has built a passionate fan base with her mesmerizing presence and explosive live shows. Her debut, Home of the Brave—“Stunning album, the kind of woman who sets trends” (Billboard)—garnered extremely positive critical attention while her sophomore album, Skintalk, described as the soulful sound of “Earth, Wind and Fire on the Rez” (J Poet, Native Peoples Magazine), took her music to Europe and the Far East. Albums Skintalk and The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake are recognized in the Library Collection and the exhibition Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC.
Redbone is composer for the Public Theater’s 2019 production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuff, a revival/reimagining of the 1976 classic choreopoem by the late Ntozake Shange. Redbone joined the all-women-of-color Creative Team to celebrate the author’s historical work and legacy, and enjoyed a four-week extended run through December that received rave reviews with notable mentions for their team’s original compositions and score—“supreme music…brilliant” (NY Daily News).
Redbone and Whitby’s recent work is Bone Hill, an interdisciplinary musical theater work inspired by the lives of Redbone’s family in the hills of coal-mining Appalachia. A multi-racial Cherokee and African American family, they are permanently bonded to their culture, identity, and the mountain despite its violent past and the ever-changing laws of the land that threaten to extinguish them. Commissioned by Joe’s Pub/NEA and Lincoln Center for the Arts, Bone Hill—The Concert is touring extensively nationwide and is a recipient of the NEFA National Theater Project Creation and Touring Grant and National Performance Network Creation Fund.