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Medicine Bow


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Description
Sorry for the mini-essay, but this track requires some setup.

I live in the state of Minnesota, in the north central United States. While Minnesota is known for its cold winters, pine forest and good fishing, few outsiders realize it was once one third tall grass prairie. Until that ecosystem was converted into row-crop agriculture, huge Buffalo herds ranged here, until hunted to near extinction in the 1870's.

An important part of the region's prairie history are the Metis--the mixed blood offspring of French fur trappers and Native Cree or Ojibwe women. The Metis were great buffalo hunters. They mounted hunting parties of hundreds of men on horseback and whole villages trailing behind on oxcart.

They also made the fiddle their own, blending European fiddle melodies with their own syncopations. There was no word for fiddle in the Cree language and so they called the fiddle the "Medicine Bow." There are still thriving Metis communities in North Dakota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

This song is about a Metis Buffalo hunter circa 1870, as the last bison are disappearing from the prairie. While the Metis were more than subsistance hunters,it was later market hunters that almost wiped the bison from the face of the earth.

Production notes: this track was performed live in the studio by my band Blue Yodel No. 9: John Whitehead, composer, lead vocal & rhythm guitar; Stew Lelievre, lead guitar; Scott Washburn, resonator guitar; John Haer, upright bass
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Lyrics
Medicine Bow

My daddy was a Quebecquois, my mom a full-blood Cree
My friends all call me Lefty, but my name is Jean Dupree
I come down from Manitoba in the rain and mud and snow
To the plains of Minnesota on the trail of the Buffalo

I was born behind a travois one cold November night
Momma died in childbirth, daddy in a fight
I ride circles round the Yankees, I taught my horse to dance the jig
I make my living with my rifle, I keep a fiddle in my rig.

Play The Drops of Brandy, play the schottishe and the reel
The Girl I Left Behind Me and the Waltz Quadrille
Circle round the campfire and we’ll play ‘em fast and slow
Hear the echo in the prairie wind. The sound of the medicine bow

All day the ox-carts rumble, a thousand in our train
With twice as many walking, like a city on the plain
And the bison roll like thunder like the ground had come alive
I shoot until I lose the count while the women skin the hides

Play The Drops of Brandy, the schottishe and the reel
The Girl I Left Behind Me and the Waltz Quadrille
Circle round the campfire and we’ll play ‘em fast and slow
Hear the echo in the prairie wind. The sound of the medicine bow

But that was long ago… before repeaters and the trains
Now its days you ride before you see a bison on the plains
And on full moon nights the prairie’s white, covered as with snow
With a ghostly light from the bleached-white bones and skulls of the buffalo

Play The Drops of Brandy, the schottishe and the reel
The Girl I Left Behind Me and the Waltz Quadrille
Circle round the campfire and we’ll play ‘em fast and slow
Hear the echo in the prairie wind. The sound of the medicine bow

Song Stats
Hits: 2964
Comments: 24
Fans: 14
Plays: 128
Downloads: 99
Votes: 1
Uploaded: Jul 09, 2009 - 10:42:01 PM
Last Updated: Jul 09, 2009 - 10:42:01 PM Last Played: Sep 29, 2017 - 11:49:09 PM
Song License
Creative Commons License:
Attribution-NoDerivs-NonCommercial

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Comments
Feter said 3024 days ago (July 10th, 2009)
Medicine Bow
Man ... what is this ...this sounds like coming from a classic folk book
astonishing vocal work ..the story lyrics just so ..the band so tight and
a top notch production ...your CD really worth every single coin ..kudos
thnx alot for sharin such gem !!!!
Check out my latest song called Roll with it
Daugrin said 3022 days ago (July 11th, 2009)
Medicine Bow
Stop making stuff this good, you will get a well deserved reputation. Dam.

Daug
Check out my latest song called TCYB/U Got No Mind
davisamerica said 3022 days ago (July 11th, 2009)
wow
..wow
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Dadai.2 said 3022 days ago (July 11th, 2009)
I really love this kind of song...

a classic story-song that is worth a listen to all and any. Not to mention... my youngest daughter is a Quebecquoise!

Kudos and hat-tips to this great folk song. Such fine guitar playing, and an easy-going vocal. Thanks for an enjoyable listen.

D2
mowguy3 said 3021 days ago (July 12th, 2009)
Excelent song
and a fine band. Love the story man. You realy set the stage and executed this one well. Outstanding!!!
Check out my latest song called What Would That Make Me?
said 3021 days ago (July 12th, 2009)
just fine writing
and delivery, really enjoyed this, thanks!

. - Harold
daibhre said 3019 days ago (July 14th, 2009)
Perfect.
Awesome... thanks for a great tune, a great story, and excellent performance. (Did I hear a little bit of an Appalachian fiddle tune in the middle there?)
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daibhre said 3019 days ago (July 14th, 2009)
Perfect.
Awesome... thanks for a great tune, a great story, and excellent performance. (Which fiddle tune was the break?)
Check out my latest song called We Wish You Love
daibhre said 3019 days ago (July 14th, 2009)
Perfect.
Awesome... thanks for a great tune, a great story, and excellent performance. (Which fiddle tune was the break?)
Check out my latest song called We Wish You Love
johnwhitehead said 3019 days ago (July 14th, 2009)
Fiddle tune
Yes...good ears. It's "Guilderoy" which is like a minor-key version
of "Red Haired Boy". The name of the song really ought to be "Medicine Bow/Guilderoy" Thanks for comments, btw. I'm liking your stuff. Good to have another bluegrass-inflected folkie around here!
Check out my latest song called Wandering Blues
johnwhitehead said 3019 days ago (July 14th, 2009)
Fiddle tune
Yes...good ears. It's "Guilderoy" which is like a minor-key version
of "Red Haired Boy". The name of the song really ought to be "Medicine Bow/Guilderoy" Thanks for comments, btw. I'm liking your stuff. Good to have another bluegrass-inflected folkie around here!
Check out my latest song called Wandering Blues
Pete_NB said 3018 days ago (July 15th, 2009)
Solid
Great, haunting effort. Excellent musicianship all round and lyrics are stellar.

Pro sounding mix as well.
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Lennon714 said 3018 days ago (July 15th, 2009)
History
Always makes for wonderful song themes. Especially these tragic untold stories. I'm taking an American History course right now that's emphasizing on the 1865-1900 era. Quite possibly the biggest black eye in our history. This is fantastic. Your voice is so clear and rich. Your band is spot on and subtle. Thanks for this. And thanks to Daugrin for calling my attention to it!
Check out my latest song called The Robots of Coconino County
kayakanu said 3018 days ago (July 15th, 2009)
Solid!
Great peice!
Really like the story aspect and the chord formations.
Vocals are earthy and very enjoyable!

Thank you for your input on my song, ill take into account the 'timing'... thanks again for your time and help : )

Keep playing for soul
Check out my latest song called Realise
gail60 said 3018 days ago (July 15th, 2009)
quite a story
You have such a pleasant voice and this was a great tune. There are many words in here that I can't even begin to pronounce, but I liked hearing you sing them :) Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed the story.
Check out my latest song called Ed - Forever in our hearts
Elevator_Funk said 3017 days ago (July 16th, 2009)
Excellent...
You guys are just great. Excellent Sonwriting, Excellent production.

I have some native friends from over there. My moms side of the family is French/Blackfeet and one of my cousins is Cree. I have a few friends from eastern Minn, and a couple from South Dakota, but i'm not sure if they are the 'meti' you describe in your song.

Anyways, thanks for posting.
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johnwhitehead said 3017 days ago (July 17th, 2009)
Thanks
Just saw your post on the old family 78 you found. Great story. What a gem. Thanks for the listen, btw.
Check out my latest song called Wandering Blues
buckhorn said 3016 days ago (July 18th, 2009)
Those
acoustic instruments sound great. Fine Musicianship and vocal. (must be nice to record in a studio....all my tunes include computer fan and fridge noise.) A very, very nice listen. And a nice slice of Americana.
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AJerkin_Progress said 3014 days ago (July 19th, 2009)
Nice
This fits perfectly with our trips up to the Detroit Lakes area (Rose Lake near Frazee) at the end of every summer. It has that same great melancholy feel I always get traveling through the middle of Minnesota.
Check out my latest song called Gastric Rhythms
AJerkin_Progress said 3014 days ago (July 19th, 2009)
Nice
This fits perfectly with our trips up to the Detroit Lakes area (Rose Lake near Frazee) at the end of every summer. It has that same great melancholy feel I always get traveling through the middle of Minnesota.
Check out my latest song called Gastric Rhythms
Moviz said 3000 days ago (August 2nd, 2009)
Fantastic
story telling in these lyrics and your 'mini-essay' was a delight to read. The song, playing and vocals are so top notch.... I think I'll just pack up and go home LOL. Great stuff, regards M
Check out my latest song called Angels
MarkHolbrook said 2585 days ago (September 22nd, 2010)
Deep song
about your home. Love that. I think the best music is that which comes from the heart and this feels that way to me. Nicely done!
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Joe Brady said 2110 days ago (January 9th, 2012)
I love this
beautiful recording ; great vocal. thank you, this one's in my iPod now.
Check out my latest song called Long Way From Denver
alackbass said 2013 days ago (April 15th, 2012)
Medicine Bow
Great song and a great recording. The Dobro is a nice touch. Downloaded!
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Artist Info
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Name: John Whitehead
Location: Saint Paul MN United States
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I've been singing and playing since the age of fourteen when my brother Paul was working his way through the Beatle book and needed someone to play with. From Paul I learned to fingerpick, play barre chords, and to sing the melody while he sang harmo... [see more]

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