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In “The Garden” with Martha Redbone Roots Project

Contributed • Nov 28, 2017 at 10:51 PM

“The Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake” will be performed by Martha Redbone Roots Project, a band of blues and jazz musicians, Thursday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m. in East Tennessee State University’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium.

The ETSU Old Time Ramblers will open the show. Tickets are $20 adults, $15 seniors age 60-up and $5 for students with a valid ID. To purchase tickets, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587).

In “The Garden,” Redbone interweaves the music of her mountain childhood in the coal country of Kentucky with a collection of the poems of 18th-century British poet, painter and printmaker William Blake of “Tyger Tyger” fame. 

The process of creating The Garden and the album inspired Redbone to turn the record project into a larger endeavor she calls the Martha Redbone Roots Project. “Many people, especially in New York City, don’t know anything about Appalachia,” she says. “They just call all the people from there ‘country’ or ‘hillbillies.’ They know nothing about the beauty of our culture in the hills.

“So, I thought, ‘This is a wonderful time to educate as well as inspire people musically, show them a different side of what Appalachia is about’ … Part of the idea of folk music, when people say folk, the key word is folk, meaning ‘all people.’ Everyone who came to those hills brought the music of their culture.”

Honoring native cultures, educating and communicating through stories and music are true missions for Redbone, who reaches out to diverse communities, celebrating her and others’ roots — in workshops, performances for young audiences and other outreach activities.

Her upbringing with a Cherokee/Shawnee/Choctaw mother and grandmother and a gospel-singing black father also inspire her devotion and music. That, too, she points out, is part of her Appalachian heritage. “People forget that all those mountains — Black Mountain, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Smokies, Clinch Mountain — all of those were original Cherokee territory. It’s amazing how today people are not aware of that.”

Redbone was a 2015-16 Fellow of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and is recognized as an example of Contemporary Native American music in the Permanent Library Collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

“We try to take you to church and bring you back home again with a cup of hot cocoa,” Redbone says. “That’s what we try to do, try to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.”

For more information about ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, visit www.etsu.edu/martin or call 423-439-TKTS (8587).

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