Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Shawn Biggs
The American Indians were famously celebrated for their conservation, their communion with Mother Nature and with their cleanliness in the necessary consumption that they engaged in. They were said to have never been wasteful, using every part of the buffalo, every part of the antelope and deer for purposes that went beyond food intake. They used bones for tools, hides for teepees and clothing and the list goes on. They didn't trash the place or the creatures that they considered to be as sacred as anything else. Mariee Sioux brings much of this part of her heritage into the astonishing music that she makes - throwing gentle whispers of spirituality into her sometimes grim and black tales of life as it is now. She doesn't waste a line or a word or a second of time just blankly spouting or presupposing, instead she adorns each of these opportunities in her medicine women tales of nature as a stark and beautiful being, with real feelings, real veins and beating hear with standout spaklings.
Whether she's done this or not, what you hear in the following set songs and on all of the tracks from her Grass Roots Recording Co. debut full-length, Faces in the Rocks, is the poetry of someone who's taken the time to experience what it means to be in union with not just the things that surround her - because for most, this just means Texas Roadhouses, more coffeehouses that end in -ucks than you can shake a stick at and cars galore - but the things that used to surround us, before the gold rush, before Lewis & Clark and before impatience to conquer all things that weren't conquered set in. She's done a mental exercise of an observation that pits her in front of a bushy, one-ton, wild as snot and oats buffalo, ripping the ground with its hooves and snorting out hot smoke with a lab worker's eye for observational detail and a priest's unlimited compassion. Perhaps there's a red and dripping arrow wound in the beast's hind quarters, causing it all of its discomfort, or maybe there isn't. But it stands there and Sioux looks at it, tries to understand it as best she can. She scans over its coarse, chocolate and walnut-colored fur and makes mental notes of the small glistening droplet of water at the bottom of the animal's blinking left eye, the way that the nostril glows with the same runniness that hers would in a worked up or cold state, the way its ears cock back toward her feet when she breaks the backs of a few blades of grass with her feet, of how calm its gotten in just the short few minutes that she's witnessed it here, so close and vulnerable, of how it looks like it might let her get closer. She puts little "Ex. 1" and "Ex. 2" markings on the clear grease marker board in her head, to list the things she sees, then she locks them up forever, to always return to them when she's losing touch. She must do the same with a small, trickling stream and the big mournful canyons that have been cut by the miniscule ribbons of free water. She much let them seep into her own body and stake whatever claim they want to her organs and tissues. They are welcome parasites, holing up and changing her for the better.
Sioux creates and intoxicating amount of spectacular imagery, noting various body parts of these animals that have never been domesticated and which once roamed and roamed as far as the eye could see. There's more than enough sadness in that lost panoramic view, but she brings it all back to the forefront when she sings about elk teeth and the reflection of a candle through a buffalo's eyes, sympathizing with the mama bear and the hideous display of being gunned down for sport in front of her cubs. It has nothing to do with us, in the small sense, and everything too as we brace for the dramatic takeover of nature repossessing its property. The bears and the buffalo will get paid and the rivers will be the loudest things running once again.