Lizzie West & Baba Buffalo
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Lizzie West & Baba Buffalo

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"No Depression"

Lizzie West & The White Buffalo, I Pledge Allegiance to Myself (Appleseed). Lizzie West received acclaim for her 2003 disc Holy Road, originally a self-release before Warner Bros. reissued an altered version of it. Now on indie Appleseed, West, supported mostly by Anthony Kieraldo (the White Buffalo) on piano, performs music that encompasses a range of themes and styles. "Rope Me In and Smoke Me" is an expression of uninhibited sexuality presented in a jaunty neo-reggae style. The title track is one of several low-key anthems, while a few songs, such as "19 Miles to Baghdad", are obliquely topical. West writes disarming melodies, wraps her songs in beautiful, spare arrangements, and sings them with a beguiling voice that occasionally features tremolo effects redolent of Buffy Sainte-Marie. A couple of seven-minute covers, Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" and Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans", are given sufficiently original treatments to justify inclusion. - Paul E. Comeau


"American Songwriter"

Lizzie West is yet another musician who couldn't cope with the corporate machine. After releasing her previous album Holy Road: Freedom Songs with Warner Bros. in 2003, she found herself at odds with the label over artistic differences. On I Pledge Allegiance to Myself one understands why. Along with her artistic talents and beautiful, quivering Natalie Merchant0esque voice, there is no doubt that West is an eccentric. On the title track, West sings "America the Beautiful" just how it was written, but on the second verse goes into her own personal tirade declaring "I pledge allegiance to myself/the united soul and mind of Lizzie West/ and the resistance for which I stand." It's also interesting that West features a picture of Woody Guthrie in the album liner, because one can easily imagine her taking Natalie Merchant's place on the Billy Bragg & Wilco records, which were penned using old Guthrie musings. This latest effort from West, featuring plenty of anti-Bush sentiment as well as a brilliant cover of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up," is an indie masterpiece. - Evan James


"Ricks Cafe"

Though she's only 33, Lizzie West has already packed more accomplishments into those three decades than most people will in a lifetime. A native of New York now living in Columbia, Missouri, West is a singer, songwriter, poet, playwright, and novelist- one of those rare cases in which "creator" seems to be the only wholly descriptive occupational title.

The statement, "if you don't create your reality, your reality will create you" is something of a personal mantra for West, but she admits it has taken her years to be able to reach a full understanding of its meaning. "I want to sing my whole life," she says, "But it took me a really long time to give myself permission to do that."

The subway travelers of New York provided West with her first audience, and the knowledge that she could indeed pursue a career in music. "It's some kind of cathartic experience when it's right. Somehow the audience members and myself are able to truly share the light that's within us, and it feels like we're both glowing together in a positive light. It's a really nice feeling."

Her early earnings allowed her to record her first album, "Holy Road". In addition, she was able to fund a tour for herself, during which she sought out and met one of her longtime idols: Leonard Cohen.

Much like the pupil/teacher relationship that Whitman had in his Emerson, and Dylan had in Guthrie, West found hers in Cohen. "It was at a point and time when I really didn't know what to do or where to go," she explains. "He definitely made me feel like I was exactly where I needed to be at the time, and that I would always be exactly where I needed to be."

After gaining a new sense of confidence and direction from her meeting with Cohen. West was offered a five-record contract with Warner Bros. In 2003, her debut was released as "Holy Road: Freedom Songs." However, it was freedom that West discovered herself losing more and more of while caught in the machine of the music industry. A victim of artistic censorship in a post-9/11 world, West found that her major-label experience was "slowly chipping away at the truth of what I was."

Eventually she severed the ties with Warner and began to reclaim fell creative freedom with the help of musician (and Wisconsin native) Anthony Kieraldo (the White Buffalo). "I Pledge Allegiance to Myself" was released on the independent label Appleseed Records in this spring of this year, and gave fans a mix of original songs with eclectic influences including reggae, folk, pop and jazz. Also featured are interpretations of "Get Up, Stand Up" and "City of New Orleans."

Perhaps the greatest triumph resulting from the release of "Allegiance" was the ability to include "19 Miles to Baghdad," a track that had been met with much opposition during her major-label days because of its strong political stance. On a different note is the flirtatious "Rope Me In and Smoke Me," a brassy, upbeat tune that just begs for summertime radio play. Various themes such as renewal, reflection, liberty and love saturate every track, making it a satisfying listen no matter what mood you might find yourself in. It is likely due to this versatility that her songs have been picked up for use in several television shows and a Spike Lee-directed commercial, as well as the film "Secretary" (which also features a Cohen song) over the years. The constant behind all the musical variations found in West's albums is her warm, lightly warbling vocal style, evocative of Carol King and Natalie Merchant.

In addition to making music, Lizzie West and the White Buffalo have recently created the artist-in-residence organization "Holy Road Tours" with the help of their road manager, Laura Parris.

"I had had such a spiritually depleting experience in the normal way of touring," West states. "We decided we'd try to build the artist-in-residency program so that we could move a little slower but still reach our audiences on more intimate and committed levels." There are currently two Holy Road boarding houses (one in Columbia, MO and another in Pine Plains, NY) where independent artists can stay and sustain themselves with the help of community-bases co-oping.

In another ambitious endeavor, West is currently working on a novella in her own genre of "science fiction autobiography," and she has plans to develop a musical based on one or her previously unreleased songs.

"I really don't like to just sit. I just like to work and to excavate my soul. There's a lot of information to relay while I'm here on Earth, and I feel like any day could be my last. I have to try to get it all out of me while I'm here." - Shelley Peckham


"Entertainment Weekly"

Let's hear it for late bloomers. Singer-songwriter Lizzie West didn't pick up a guitar until she was 23, but she's made remarkably rapid progress since then. In the past five years, the 28-year-old New Yorker made the leap from busking in the subway to scoring a deal with Warner Bros., which will release her debut album, "Holy Road...Freedom Songs." "I think I got from the subway to here by pursuing my vision honestly, without any pause or hear," says West, a New Age kind of gal. You can get a first taste of her wonderfully plangent, lyrical songwriting (think the second coming of Natalie Merchant) on her four-song EP "Lizzie West" (listen for her song "Chariots Rise" in the feature film "Secretary"). "It took a long time to give myself permission to be who I wanted to be," says West. "But I'm on my way." We bet plenty of folks will follow. - Mark Mann


"The New York Times"

Lizzie West takes her songs about love and hitting the road seriously. At the Fez on Tuesday night - the release date of her debut album, "Holy Road: Freedom Songs" (Warner Brothers) - she introduced songs with pronouncements like, "There's a spiritual outlaw on the loose, and she might bring us into some pleasure if we're not careful." It could have been pretentious, but it came across as one more bit of quirky intensity from a songwriter who finds parables in the personal.

Ms. West's music is folk rock that can lean toward funk or country, akin to Sheryl Crow, and her voice has a reedy hint of Natalie Merchant. Yet she already has her own perspective and her own presence: part seeker, part vamp with heavy-lidded eyes and casually swiveling hips. In "Miss You Baby," she couldn't decide whether to walk out of a straying man or leet him seduce her one more time. "I miss your hands," she confessed with a quivering voice as the band turned bluesy.

Ms. West can write sweetly forthright love songs like "The Day We Met," but she is also fond of pilgrimages, wanderings and journeys home. "Sometime" starts with her driving away after being done wrong and ends with her still on the road observing. "Down goes the small man's dream/ The franchise rise and provide." Another song, about leaving troubles behind, began, "Hallelujah, I lost my job." Her music is rooted and comfortable, but her best songs have a restless promise. - Jon Pareles


"Los Angeles Times"

“These are the stones of my holy road,” singer-songwriter Lizzie West told the audience Wednesday at the Mint, flashing a broad but slightly shy smile that reflected her music’s blend of guilelessness and craft.

The New York City-born guitarist, 29, followed a winding but time-tested path to her major-label debut, “Holy Road…Freedom Songs.” It collects the wisdom accumulated while seeking lessons on the road a la Jack Kerouac. She busked in the subways of her hometown and traveled the country, eventually seeking out her muse, Leonard Cohen. After selling a couple songs to HBO, she self-released the first version of her album, even whimsically handcrafting each CD cover.

On Wednesday, West’s light, intimate touch kept her tunes refreshingly unpretentious, despite a potentially heavy mixture of stories, poetry and soul-searching. For just under an hour, she and her two guitarists, bassist and drummer shifted smoothly from country twang to bluesy rock to folky pop.

They played many of the album’s standouts, including the appealing “Time to Cry,” the Lucinda Williams-esque “Dusty Turnaround” and the funkier “Doctor.” She also burrowed soulfully into Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” making it a heartfelt cry against the recent Iraq war.

A likeably eccentric front woman, West swiveled her hips, played harmonica and conducted the band with wide arm sweeps. The journey she shared was perhaps what anyone looking for freedom, love and self might experience, but she had a uniquely effortless, and charming, way of telling the tale.
- Natalie Nichols


Discography

Holy Road: Independent release, 2000
West EP: Warner Bros., 2002
Holy Road: Freedom Songs: Warner Bros., 2003
19 Miles to Baghdad Single: Independent release, 2004
Something Good has Begun EP: Independent release, 2005
I Pledge Allegiance to Myself: Appleseed Records, 2006

Both the Warner Bros. "Holy Road: Freedom Songs" and the Appleseed Records "I Pledge Allegiance to Myself", are played on XM, Sirius, community and commercial radio stations throughout North America and Europe.

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Bio

Lizzie West was named Artist of the Year by AOL and Entertainment Weekly in 2003 with her Warner Bros. release of Holy Road: Freedom Songs. She has had her work used extensively in film (Secretary starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhall) and T.V. (2007: Democracy Now!, The L Word, 2003: Dawson's Creek, Alias, Third Watch, etc) and was featured singing her song "Holy Road" in a national ad campaign directed by Spike Lee. Lizzie has also performed the National Anthem in Madison Square Garden and toured as an opener for artists such as Chris Isaak, as well as headlined her own national tours.

From 2003-2006 Lizzie released her international debut, lost both of her parents to cancer, and left the major label. She released her song, "19 Miles To Baghdad", as well as her deeply personal and politically charged (the title track was censored by the major label) "I Pledge Allegiance to Myself" (Appleseed Records). In 2006 she founded Holy Road Tours (a fan and artist owned touring co-op).

The new album, made in collaboration with Anthony Kieraldo (aka Baba Buffalo, The White Buffalo), was greeted by stellar reviews.

"West writes disarming melodies, wraps her songs in beautiful, spare arrangements, and sings them with a beguiling voice."
- No Depression

In conjunction with the release of "I Pledge Allegiance to Myself", Lizzie, Baba, their road master Laura Parris, and their friends/fans started HOLY ROAD TOURS, an artist in residence co-oping organization. Holy Road Tours focuses on bringing local communities, independent businesses, national artists and their "fans" together to develop fulfilling sustainable living methods.

Lizzie is currently writing and publishing a serial novel entitled, "The Wonderful Adventures" which is available at holyroadtours.com for download. She and Baba have been creating and performing a musical road show called "The Tumbleweed Cabaret" which is based on "The Wonderful Adventures". She has driven across America 9 times, written 42 art books of research on "creating reality" and is currently studying flight.

Anthony Kieraldo, the White Buffalo, (Baba Buffalo) has been playing and performing music since he was five. In 1999, he was recognized by DOWNBEAT Magazine for both composition and as a soloist on piano. In the summer of 2000 and 2001, he toured Peru with his trio Treeonik in support of the independent release on AWSAM records of the album "You Choose", composed entirely of his original music.

After studying music at New England Conservatory, Anthony left Boston and moved to NYC from where he toured both nationally and internationally performing in many different musical genres and groups.

Since meeting Lizzie West in 2005, Baba has performed, composed, produced and arranged with Lizzie. Baba is musical director for Holy Road Tours, producer for the Holy Road Medicine Show Podcast and is illustrating "The Wonderful Adventures". He documents the Holy Road through blogging, video, photography, journaling, drawing and painting. The duo regards the White Buffalo as a symbol of Native American values and respect towards the land. To them, the metaphor also represents their hope that "something good" has been born into the world at large.