Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
On the Warpath / As Long As the Grass Shall Grow
Genres: Country, Folk, World Music, Pop
Mystery man of the folk revival era...
William E. Adams | Midland, Texas USA | 10/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Peter only left us six vinyl records, recorded between 1961 and his death in late '65 at age 33. Only four of those have been transferred to CD, combined into two releases by Bear Family of Germany. If there is a LaFarge cult, I haven't encountered it yet, but sign me up. Peter was an Indian, but a cowboy too. He was rural, but also urban. He loved and recorded the western songs of the l9th century, but also was the first to write pro-Native American protest songs, narrowly beating out Buffy St. Marie, who quickly followed his lead, and created even more powerful polemics about Indian mistreatment. This offering combines two albums he did for Folkways in the early 60's. Included here are the songs Johnny Cash put out (written by Pete) on his famous "Bitter Tears" album of '64. If LaFarge had done nothing else, he would deserve honor for composing "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" which Cash made into a huge hit. But there is plenty else on this release. Peter's voice is an acquired taste...it requires about three listenings to begin to like his rough but not unpleasant tone. Once one gets used to him, one can even learn to love it and need to hear it regularly. Don't think of him so much as a "singer"---like Woody Guthrie, his songwriting outclassed his own performing talent. About one third of the songs on this CD are sung well by Pete. Another third are in the "talking blues" or "recited" style. For the remaining third, his own voice fails to sell his own song as well as a more polished singer might. Like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs, the totality of Peter's performance had more impact than the individual parts. Combine the words, the voice, the guitar and the sincerity, and you've got something worth hearing. Separate the components, and each piece is less impressive. Throughout this CD, however, there are couplets and verses which sparkle with genius. For instance: "Call him drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore...not the whiskey-drinking Indian, nor the Marine who went to war." Or this: "If you want to know this country/if you want to know this land/take a look at the wide Missouri/or walk the sandy Rio Grande/When you get to know her people/then you'll get to know her heart/you'll find New York and Frisco ain't so very far apart." One of my favorites on here is "If I Could Not Be An Indian", which has the phrase "It's hard lessons to the rulers/when they hold a captive race/you cannot reach a man's heart/when you're stepping on his face." The long song "Drums" is about the futility of sending Indian kids to boarding schools in order to turn them into copycat Anglos. It is one of the best songs and finest performances of Pete's career. Here's a verse from "Take Back Your Atom Bomb" that I think worthy of Emily Dickinson: "Take back your atom bomb/give us back the arrow/God's eye is on the neutron/as well as on the sparrow." Peter was a diamond in the rough, perhaps, but some of us like our folksingers and writers to be a little less accessible than the pop craftsmen of Tin Pan Alley. Peter was unique and is well-worth checking out."
A talented songwriter
JERRY L. BLALOCK | LINDALE, GEORGIA USA | 07/09/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first heard of Peter Lafarge by way of Johnny Cash's album "Bitter Tears". I loved the album and upon looking at the songwriter on my favorite songs, saw that it was Peter Lafarge. I later found a scratched up album of Peter's at a yard sale. To hear him do the versions of his songs was an eye opener. Granted he did not have the best voice in the world and the instrumental background is sparse, but oh what a lyricist. If you want something to dance to skip this c.d. But if you want a history lesson and to really hear the Indian's side of the story buy it. Peter Lafarge was a very talented songwriter who, unfortunatly died much to young. But his songs live on. Listen to the lyrics of "As Long As The Grass Shall Grow" and even though written in the 1960's it is still a testament of how the American Indian has been mistreated throughout the white man's rule of America. And sadly the mistreatment continues. "The Ballad Of Ira Hayes" should be a song taught to schoolchildren today. In closing I will say this about Peter Lafarge. He, in my opinion ,is in the same league as Kris Kristofferson. Not a great voice, but a great songwriter,who's not so great voice complements his songs very well."
Hearing it again after many years and liking it more.
B.D. Kendrick | Richmond, Virginia | 12/08/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I knew Peter when he recorded this album. I was very young, just up from Virginia. Peter taught me history books lied. I had never heard of Ira Hayes. I have now. I bought this CD a year ago and I heard it through older ears. I realized how wonderful it is musically and lyrically. It is serious and funny. I wish Peter was still here. This CD can tell you things you never knew if you just listen."