Indigenous

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Indigenous

Mato Nanji, the longtime leader of the South Dakota-based Indigenous, is a Native American artist who was born to play the blues. He pares his musical approach right down to the bone on The Acoustic Sessions (Vanguard, June 8), the seventh full-length album under the Indigenous nameplate, in a series of strikingly intimate and immediate performances of songs handpicked from the band’s first decade of existence. These captivating performances transcend genre, locating the heartfelt, powerfully understated expression at the core of Mato’s writing.

“This album is a collection of some of my favorite songs that celebrate 10 years of releasing albums, starting with Things We Do in 1998 and finishing with Broken Lands in 2008,” he writes in his notes to the The Acoustic Sessions. “I wanted to do something special to thank all the Indigenous fans out there for supporting us from the beginning, and for the continued support as we open a new chapter with this album. Every song that I have ever written began with the acoustic guitar, so it only felt natural to create an acoustic album. For me, everything has always been about making music. It is who I am and who I always will be. I am honored to have the opportunity to share a part of who I am with all of you.”

The plainspoken, heartfelt eloquence with which Mato explains his inspiration for making this album can be found in every song penned and every note played by this refreshingly humble and earnest artist. On The Acoustic Sessions, Mato revisits, in chronological order, 10 linchpin songs from his body of work, stripping away everything but their musical and emotional essences, joined only by producer/multi-instrumentalist Jamie Candiloro (Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson) and his wife and songwriting collaborator Leah Nanji, who sings backing vocals, with violinist Lisa Germano (John Cougar Mellencamp) contributing to certain songs. The spare settings serve to isolate Mato’s lived-in, character-rich vocals and burnished guitar lines, which are totally of a piece with his writing.

In these songs, the natural imagery of rain falling and winds blowing across the badlands of his native South Dakota set off Mato’s recurring themes—notably, a traveling man’s yearning for home and the powerful bond between two people who were meant to share their lives together, their bond made more precious by the inexorable passage of time. From the opening “Now That You’re Gone,” originally recorded for Things We Do, his band’s first national release, to the tender “Eyes of a Child” from the recent Broken Lands, Mato captures life as he’s lived it, in a way that anyone who has a heart will naturally relate to.

“I really enjoyed working with Jamie, Mato states. He’s a cool, laid-back guy, and he has his own studio in L.A. which is where we made the record. I just flew out, went in there with my acoustic and we laid ’em down, with Jamie playing drums, bass and some other things. I wanted to do a different style of acoustic record, rather just guitar and vocals. I wanted to stretch it out and experiment with percussion and different feels. And because it was just me, Jamie, and Leah, I was able to focus more on the details.”

The album closes with a rousing yet poignant … Read More

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