"Turning, turn on into my own self at last / Out of
the white cage, out of the lady cage Turning into my own season..."
- From "Fall"
Somewhere between sea and sky, a soul is kissed by
lightning, igniting and illuminating them
directions. The cosmic download empowers them with
a voice that stretches from a husky purr to a piercing
It gives them a boundless imagination and open access
to the complete spectrum of music.
Cree Summer is
that spirit - a captivating songwriter,
singer and performer making her electrifying
solo debut on WORK Records.
13-song album, self-titled, is a pulsing
amalgam of emotions and styles, movin' and groovin'
from the ascending euphoria's
of "Soul Sister" and
"Deliciously Down" to the electric blues of the
Lenny Kravitz duet, "Mean Sleep," and the scathing,
shit-hits-the-fan spanking of "Curious White Boy" -
all from a woman whose image of god is a
voluptuous, brown goddess
with long hair and elfin ears!
Weaving words with the precision of a surgeon or the poetic
grace of a pearl stringer,
Cree Summer always leaves
a vibrant impression... rockin' you like a
hurricane or a cradle. "I guess my songs are
hybrid of the music I heard as a child and the
weird-ass way I grew up," Cree shares with earthy candor.
I ever wanted to do was sing.
My father had a jazz band and I remember climbing
on stage at clubs I was too young
to be in."
Cree Summer was born in California, to a mother
who was a dancer, and an actor/musician father, Don
It was 1969; the hippie movement in full effect,
and Don didn't want to have a child in
fell in love with Red Pheasant,
a Plains Cree reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada.
So he moved his family and, with his
built them a house of mud.
Cree spent her first eight years there, later
living in a school bus, a
horse stable and a
commune called the Music Church.
Her first taste of school didn't come until
the fourth grade
in Toronto. Restless and
relatively independent thanks to the money she
saved from voicing cartoons since the age
Cree dropped out at 16. "I had an isolated
childhood," she admits, "but I fell in
love with music, the
first of it being Pow Wow
music - traditional native Cree songs.
I had two records growing up on 'The Res':
Allures by Frank Zappa - my musical messiah
- and Motorcycle Michael by Lotti Golden.
Then I'd visit my grandmom in
and there was Aretha and Dinah Washington."
Her father encouraged her to express her
by writing in journals, which blossomed
into a love for poetry and literature.
Today, one entire high-ceilinged wall
her home is filled with books.
"Lyrically, I'm inspired by urban fantasy/fiction,
Elf Quest comix, Sonia Sanchez,
Bambara, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and
Dorothy Parker," she says.
As an example, she offers, "'Fall'
about a dying leaf. I was really into Walt Whitman
at the time. But I don't like to tell people
the songs are about. I'm always open
to finding out how much deeper a song can be."
"Making this music has been
journey of self-discovery," she continues,
"and totally organic.
I can't say there's a theme to the record.
It's as spontaneous as my journeys." The first song
on Cree Summer is "Revelation Sunshine," the first
ever wrote (at age 19) to her first
love. "It's a fitting way to say hello," Cree says.
"I love its purity and the
time it represents."
"Life Goes On" is a meditative nudge to not waste
precious time, while "Angry Boy," is a
n' sour examination of an abusive man who is out
of touch with his emotions. There's the
soulful "Sweet Pain," a love
by a craving for more Al Green and Donny Hathaway
music, and "Still Heart," a stark rumination about
desperate measures people sometimes take to not be lonely.
The album was recorded in Los Angeles, New York and
Nassau, where Cree flew to work with longtime friend,
Lenny Kravitz."Lenny taught me song structure,"
of their working association.
"He's very persnickety and has an exquisite ear.
Lenny made me sing better, and that's
a great gift."
The unique bond they share is reflected in "Miss Moon,"
the mystical song they co-wrote for longtime
friend, Lisa Bonet.
Most profound of all is "Naheo," a confirmation of
Cree's roots that throbs to a tom tom
under ringing mandolins. "That was inspired by
my family.When I left my mama's house to come to LA,
to be a big star. And my father,
having left potential big stardom, said,
'Don't ever lose your Indian. Never forget
where you came from. Art is a gift and if
nobody hears it, that doesn't
make it any less of a gift.' Those words
really meant much to me until my first band,
Subject to Change, broke up. I didn't listen
to music for a
year! Then, I started writing
again and the first song was 'Smooth My Heart.'
Every now and then, life gives you a
of how good it is..."
Talk such as this and the warm vibrations one
gets from spending any time around
painted Cree as a spiritualist. "I don't
believe spirit is separate from life,"
she states simply. "We
are spirit. I believe
that music is good medicine and I believe in truth."
In these days when airwaves and charts
clogged with inspiration-challenged strains,
a presence like Cree's is a goddess-send.
And Ms. Summer is just
joyous to have had the
opportunity to create one from the heart.
"While in Nassau, I thought, 'Here I am in the
most beautiful place in the world making music.'
I woke up every morning saying thank you.
If I was going to title
my album anything,
it's about gratitude. I am so grateful for this life."