The Lumbee Legacy Continues

The influence of Willie Lowery is still widespread in music-making today.  His sons Corey (bassist for the band Eye Empire) and Clint (guitarist for the band Sevendust) are both in the supergroup Dark New Day and are both heavily involved in the modern southeastern post-grunge movement.  Though none of the sons’ bands sound anything like Plant & See or Lumbee, both of the Lowery sons have experience performing with their father as youth — for, as Clint said, “from birth music was our common thread.”  According to Clint, “my brother Corey and I played a few cover gigs with my dad for money when we were younger.  My dad had amazing timing and feel.  It was the only time I publicly played with our father.  It was a great experience looking back on it now.  Back then it was a struggle to keep up.”  Corey went on a few tours playing bass with his dad and as young boys, both Clint and Corey appeared on Willie’s record “Proud to be Lumbee”.  Nowadays, both sons are proud of their Lumbee background and attribute their talents and love for the stage as passed-along traits from their father.  From Clint’s statement that Willie’s “natural ability and how he performed effected everything I do,” it is clear to hear how Willie’s spirit lives on through his sons.

Nowadays, the arguably most famous “Lumbee” band is the local outfit Dark Water Rising.  Led by UNC graduate Charly Lowery and including members Aaron and Corey Locklear and Shay Jones, the entire band is proudly and vocally Lumbee.  “Our families are rooted in [Robeson and Hoke counties] and have been for years and years- everybody knows each other or can trace one person’s lineage until they are familiar.”  Dark Water Rising is a local folk/Americana act, with many instances of gospel and traditional Lumbee music and chant interspersed into their dynamic live set -all these influences, according to Charly, come from an upbringing in Southern Baptitst and Methodist Churches.  Dark Water Rising is very well-known on the local music festival circuit (such as Shakori Hills and the Festival for the Eno) and frequently sell out large venues across the state.  A lot of their “Lumbee-ness” comes through in their songwriting, in which they touch upon themes as universal as identity, pride of one’s background, and courageously standing up to opposition.  For example, their song “BrownSkin” was written “with young Native girls and women in mind – an anthem to share words of encouragement for individuality vs. giving into the pressures of mainstream society to act, look, dress, and think a certain way”.  This sentiment rings clear through her encouraging lyrics to “live your own life, don’t worry about the need to please.  Be the queen of your own society.”  Similarly, you can hear these emotions in the music, as it begins with a quiet, almost prayer-like introduction.  When the second half of the song arrives, there is a significant increase in volume and you can hear Charly and the backup vocalists telling the audience to be strong and independent as the drums, bass, and guitar go haywire in a musical frenzy.  At the end, when Charly proudly refers to herself as an “extraordinary…little Lumbee, brown skin, little mama with the country grammer,” she is truly embracing her Lumbee identity, and raising up her Lumbee people with her in her success as a woman and a musician.

Dark Water Rising - “Brown Skin”

Other local acts follow this tradition, albeit in less obvious ways.  Chapel Hill folk quartet Mipso only have one member who identifies as 1/32 Lumbee, bassist Wood Robinson.  Nonetheless, their new song “Carolina Calling” discusses how many adopt the University and its community as their own – and after all adoption and adaptation and belonging are all cornerstones of the Lumbee culture.  And though Virginia band Carbon Leaf has no Lumbee ties, they are known for touring Virginia and North Carolina relentlessly and have gained a small but loyal following of fans – and their familiarity of the geography sometimes shows in their songwriting.  Their song “Desperation Song” mixes their at times Celtic-folk sound with low flutes, chants, and rhythms heard in Lumbee and other traditional Native American music.  In this way, Carbon Leaf finds a way to present traditional music in a more modern medium for the next generation.

Carbon Leaf – Desperation Song

Mipso – Carolina Calling

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