Song: ‘Cod’ine’- Buffy Sainte-Marie
In 2006 I was struggling in Los Angeles as a cut rate actor and a fledgeling musician. In between auditions for Big Mama’s House 4 and fights with my first live-in girlfriend, I pined for some shred of growth. So I did what every cold blooded American would do, I pawned my banjo and bought a record player. From then on out I would scramble down to Amoeba Records in my decrepit Nissan Altima and hunt the dollar bins for pieces of vinyl gold. This ended up being my salvation in many ways; I learned what I personally loved about music and I also began to melt down the walls that my brain had created around genres, allowing me to base my taste wholly on song and album cover. They have no listening stations for vinyl at Amoeba, so I would gamble on ten LPs for 10 dollars and scamper home to claim my prize.
Out of these quests I came across a record called The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie. It had a psychadellic cover showing the offensively tanned Buffy lounging in what looked to be a Witch’s bungalow with a steel resonator guitar…..I was instantly sold. Turns out Buffy is a Canadian born folk singer who got her start mangling her guitar in Greenwich Village as part of the early to mid-1960s folk scene. The 60s folk scene generally turns me off, I loathe Pete Seeger, and generally can not stand preaching in my music, but for me Buffy is different. The female protagonists in her songs have a very modern take on addiction, love, passion, and, honestly, magic. This crazy woman loves magic. Her style rides the line of crazy lady preaching doomsday and ballsy country girl looking to get laid while also teaching you all about the buffalo.
In 1963, after recovering from a throat infection, she became addicted to Codine and ended up writing one of the most delicate and terrifying drugaddiction songs Ive ever heard, aptly named “Cod’ine”. Her voice, and narrative work immediately stood out to me. In my opinion, this witch has huge swinging nuts and deserves to be given tons of respect, dont be distracted by her political tunes, stick to her woodsy drunk spells and demanding loud voice, and you will soon discover a new living legend for your roster. As well as a literal treasure trove of cover-able material (seek out: ‘I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again,’ ‘Rolling Log Blues,’ ‘Cripple Creek,’ ‘Little Wheel Spin And Spin’).
– Alejandro Rose-Garcia
Alejandro Rose-Garcia is better known to all by his stage name: Shakey Graves. He’s currently finishing up work on a new album and will be playing some shows over the coming months in places like Philadelphia, New York and Missouri (in Folk Hive’s backyard, no less). If you like any (or all) of the following things, you’ll love Shakey Graves: whiskey, America, songs about death row, dusty back roads, the country, dudes who can sound like a full band by themselves, late nights, and/or saloons.
‘Artists as Fans’ is an ongoing series that features artists writing about songs that they personally love and connect with. You can find previous entries in the series here.