Indigenous artist Cary Morin opened up the new year with the release of his latest album, Innocent Allies, a nod to the American West and an ode to his Indigenous heritage. A guitarist and vocalist, Morin created the album as both an aural and visual experience; he intends his music to be paired with the artwork of Charles M. Russell. The artwork — known for its depictions of cowboys, Native Americans, and landscapes of the American Old West —was Morin’s inspiration for the album and has influenced much of his musical style. Morin’s birthplace of Great Falls, MT, is unironically the resting place of the artist Russell and serves as the grandeur backdrop for the picture-perfect Innocent Allies.
Growing up in Great Falls, Russell’s work was “always around,” with the Montanan city being home to the Charles M. Russell Museum. “He was always a part of our world,” said Morin of the mainstay artist. The thought came to Morin to create a sort of soundtrack to Russell’s paintings. “The idea was to imagine what might have happened leading up to the moment depicted in the image and what transpired afterward,” said Morin of the songwriting process. “I recalled those paintings of Russell’s that were memorable to me and wrote songs as I viewed the paintings.”
During his childhood, Morin was surrounded by classical, country, rock, bluegrass, jazz, blues, powwow and traditional music. “I didn’t have access to music beyond the albums around my house, my friends’ homes and what we heard on the transistor radio in the 70s,” he said. When he moved to Colorado at 19 years old, Morin recalls being exposed to a “new world of music” he hadn’t known existed. Having been influenced by the local music scene and the musicians that have toured here over the years, Morin said he continues to learn and grow as an artist, “with two ‘home’ states to draw on for inspiration.”
Aside from his home of “Montanorado,” Morin credits his parents as being his great musical inspiration. “It was their influences that led me to my fascination with the sounds that make up traditional country music,” Morin said of his early home life. From the mighty river of Great Falls and an Indigenous cumulative background to the Front Range and Fort Collins, Morin feels “blessed to be surrounded by so much beauty — it has to influence what I do when I create.” That beauty and those blessings are palpable in the tranquility, lucidity and crystal-clear reverberation of Innocent Allies.
Morin is continually trying to build his touring schedule back up to his pre-pandemic level. Being out on the road, exploring new places and venues and meeting new folks is what he is looking forward to, “presenting to audiences from coast to coast and perhaps a return to Europe at some point.” A storyteller as much as he is a guitarist, Morin has also recorded a “reading of the Creation Story of the Crow people,” with his instrumentation as its background. He also hopes to create a podcast of Crow stories to share with his audience, as well as to write music for an upcoming film about the Crow artist, Earl Biss. With much on the horizon, Morin is one of those all-encompassing artists who inspire people to know their past, respect their present and grow in their future.
Listen to Innocent Allies by Cary Morin on Spotify here!