NEW YORK - Newcomer Martha Redbone is definitely not a diva. Diva, Latin for goddess, is used to describe a prima donna who tends to be a temperamental artist with a superiority complex.
No other single word could be more inappropriate when describing the warm and down-to-earth Redbone.
Redbone's debut album "Home of the Brave" was released this past May by Blackfeet Productions - a company started by Redbone and co-producer/co-writer Aaron Whitby. "I called my label Blackfeet to honor my father, who was in hospital during the recording of 'Home of the Brave,'" said Redbone in an Oct. 14 interview with Indian Country Today.
Redbone's father, a funk and gospel musician in the '70s, nurtured her with what she describes as "real" soul music - before it was stripped down. Redbone credits such diverse talents as Aerosmith, Prince and the Beatles as great inspirations.
"Home of the Brave" let loose a young woman with a voice like Aretha Franklin and a style reminiscent of Tina Turner, Macy Gray, Sheryl Crow and Lenny Kravitz rolled into one.
While "Home of the Brave" has primarily been heard by devoted followers in New York clubs and on college radio stations, her 2002 Native American Music Award for Debut Artist of the Year has helped to bring the singer some much-deserved recognition.
Redbone - of Blackfoot, Shawnee, Choctaw, Lumbee, Blackfeet and African-American heritage - has not exactly had the world handed to her on a platter.
"Being native and black has definitely had a major influence on my life," said Redbone. "When I was a kid I used to feel embarrassed about being different, as most kids feel growing up. I got teased a lot and was called 'half-breed,' 'redbone' and 'yellow girl' all the time. As I got older, I learned to accept myself and embrace both worlds I was born into. So now I understand that I am blessed in two worlds, and have adapted the name 'Redbone' as my own, and for me it has turned into a symbol of beauty, half-native, half-black, my identity."
"Underdog," the fourth cut on the 14-track CD, sums up Redbone's roots. "I'd put my money where my mouth is, but I guess I was born with a plastic spoon ? We are the underdog ? there's a million others out there trying just like me ? put us all together, same drum, same beat."
The anti-diva proves that Cinderella stories still occur.
Redbone received her "glass slipper" in the form of a microphone that was unceremoniously shoved in her face while she was doing some illustrations for George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars.
She had gone to school for art and design and had never given much thought to a music career. Walter 'Junie' Morrison of the P-Funk's liked her singing so much that he took Redbone under his wing and she ended up recording background vocals for the group's 1996 record "The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership."
The fairy tale might have ended there if Redbone hadn't decided to take voice lessons and devote her whole being to the music. She poured everything she had into her career, and that - as those of us trying to boil down eight years of hard work and dedication into a single sentence say - is that.
The performers on "Home of the Brave" include Aaron Whitby on guitar, piano, organ, programming and background vocals, Graham Hawthorne on percussion and tambourine, Jonathan Maron and Fred Cash on bass, guitar by Alan "AB" Burroughs, Teddy Kumpel and Caleb Heinaman, Todd Horton on trumpet, flugel and alto horn, harmonica by Redbone, strings arranged by Leopold Zaidelson and barking by Patch and Topsy.
Redbone has plans for a "Home of the Brave" promotional tour with an all-star band of performers gleaned from Paul Simon, Santana and India.Arie. She starts a smaller Midwest Electric Trio tour with Aaron Whitby (keys) and Alan Burroughs (guitar) on Oct. 18 - 19 at the Rocky Mountain Indian Market, Denver Coliseum in Colorado. The "rootsy, down-home tour of Midwest venues and coffeehouses continues Oct 22 at the Heartland Caf?, Chicago, Ill, Oct 24 at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, Wisc, Oct 25 at Fitger's in Duluth, Minn., Oct 26 at Brewed Awakenings in Grand Rapids, Minn. And Oct 28 at the 400 Club, Minneapolis, Minn.
She is currently writing new songs and hopes to release another CD in early 2003.
To find out more about Martha Redbone log onto www.martharedbone.com or write to Blackfeet Productions LLC, 132 Montague St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201.