Cary Morin - Innocent Allies



Hailing from Billings, Montana, Cary Morin is an acclaimed finger-style guitarist and rootsy singer-songwriter steeped in western folklore from his Native American family background. The grandson of Robert Yellowtail, a 20th century Crow leader, Cary is also a Crow tribal member and Assiniboine man. His musical career stretches back over more than 30 years, and includes past membership of the Atoll, Young Ancients and Pura Fe Trio. Alongside his current solo career, he also performs as the Cary Morin Duo and Cary Morin & Ghost Dog (both of which include his wife Celester Di Lorio). This latest album is a collection of self-penned songs inspired by the work of famous Western painter Charles M. Russell (who lived and worked in Great Falls Montana), and Cary’s own early life spent there. The images conjured by Cary from the paintings come vividly to life while listening to these mesmerising tracks of delicate finger picking and poetry in motion. Cary’s voice has a smooth edge that wraps itself around the sounds that shape these songs, with production that gives everything space to breathe, giving his words a perfect home. There’s a clear procedure to the album’s song sequencing, which makes the production sound clinical verging on dry. Then the record washes over you and the careful planning becomes immaterial. Cary deserves kudos for putting each track in the exact right place, of course, but that’s not going to be at the forefront of anyone’s experience listening to INNOCENT ALLIES. Frankly, the stakes Cary weighs from the start may fade from consciousness even as he lays them out. Eloquent and plainspoken, the excellent album finds the affable singer exploring his roots as a Native American, while striving to adapt this traditional identity to the challenging modern world. In sum, Cary Morin offers an adroit example of instrumental artistry and integrity, stirred with equal measure.

On several of the songs Cary comes across like a gentle folk philosopher who will share a couch with you and talk those hard existential talks with patience, gravity, humour, and grace. This comes across strongly on Old Timers Poem, with lyrics rooted in true stories from American history, sung to a simple lolloping rhythm. He reminisces about how the West used to be in several of these songs, including Good Medicine, a convincing, relatable track that is an invitation to come along and hear ‘this old night herder’s song,’ in this gorgeous musical emulation of an almost long-forgotten past. In songs like Big Sky Sun Goes Down, Indian Hunters Return and Montana Sky, the words and music transport the listener to the wide open spaces of the prairies and the captivating Montana landscape.

Cary demonstrates his guitar prowess with a unique rendition of the traditional fiddle tune Whiskey Before Breakfast and the self-composed Bullhead Lodge. Though most guitar players utilise the flat pick style, he plays fingerstyle giving the well-known tune a different feel. While extolling his truly remarkable abilities as a guitarist (not to mention his skills here also on pedal steel and keyboards), people often forget what a terrific singer Cary is as well, something that is demonstrated here in spades on the superb phrasing in Killing The Blues and the softer strains of the reflective Fireboat, possibly the album’s highlight track. If the music doesn’t always espouse folk purity, it doesn’t stray far from those acoustic guitar roots. INNOCENT ALLIES is yet another commendable album by the sublime Cary Morin: just simply buy it!

January 2024