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Deep Connection

Fort Collins’ Cary Morin finds the sacred spot in song.

“This land is talkin’ to me/I cannot falter now,” sings Cary Morin in “Big Sky Sun Goes Down,” the opener on his new release Innocent Allies (available at, the Fort Collins-based singer songwriter’s latest release. The concept album pays tribute to the classic painter of the American West, Charlie Russell, whom Morin feels was an ally to Native people in the West, portraying them with dignity and understanding. Morin, who is Crow, finds inspiration in the landscapes of the West, whether fishing and kayaking or simply seeing the deep history of the place for Indigenous people. The famed fingerstyle guitarist, who has played with the likes of Bonnie Rait and Los Lobos and won two Indigenous Music Awards, took the time to talk to EO about what inspires his music, the pups he takes on the road with him, and the legacy of Native voices in the West.

How do you see the artwork of the legendary Charlie Russell, which is a major influence on your latest release, as important to Native artists and musicians working today?

Maybe it was important to me because of my age. There was a major boom in Native Artists in the 1980s, mostly thanks to the Institute Of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There have been many artists who have changed Native art and continue into the new millennium. Charlie was an influence on some of these artists as well, but now Native art is being led by Natives and is so much more than paint and sculpture of the past. Charlie painted authentic images of Native tribes in his art. It makes me proud to see artists of varied backgrounds taking the spotlight with digital art and music, as well as new concepts in painting and sculpture. It’s an exciting time for art in Indian Country.

What personal connection do you find to the landscape of Colorado? How does it work into your music?

I have spent most of my life traveling and sharing songs along the way. When I was a teen in Montana, I decided the best thing to do would be to play shows in Colorado, particularly at ski areas. I have always lived near the Rocky Mountains and considered the Rockies home. Colorado is a part of the landscape that I see in my mind when I am writing. My children all grew up in Colorado, and we lived those years together here. I see Colorado as part of the Western Plains even beyond the cultural experience of the Crow Tribe, but also all of the tribes of this expansive region. My experience getting to know folks through powwows around the West will always be part of my history. It weaves its way through many of my songs.

What can you tell me about your dogs? How important is their companionship for you?

We have two Goldendoodles from a litter of puppies from here in Fort Collins. They are wonderful companions. At this point, we have been to dog parks from coast to coast and many in between. We have become connoisseurs of dog parks. It’s added something special to being on the road. As they move out of puppyhood, we are hoping to get them to the point where they can hang out at the shows instead of staying in the RV. As puppies, they’re still a bit too distracted, but we’ll get there!

You like to kayak and fly-fish. What lessons has the river taught you?

My dad didn’t fly-fish, though he sure loved to fish. Because of him, I enjoyed walking rivers and creeks for many years. I would fish with my grandfather on horseback on the Bighorn River when I was a kid. I eventually became interested in fly-fishing and would always try to fish on music tours. Once while playing music on a stage on the Poudre River, I let the band take a long drum solo and cast from the back of the stage while they played without me.

When my son Tad came along on one of these trips, he met a bunch of pro kayakers. Soon, I was buying kayaks and learning as much as I could about paddling. Tad was about 14 and a natural on the river when he was discovered by a race team, and that led to his being on the Junior Olympic Kayak team. He started taking on water that I was sure would kill me. So I left the hard stuff to him. It was a great time for us to spend together, and I could always fish while the team practiced.

Where do you go to feel closer to the land?

I used to think that being in the mountains was going to church for me. I often thought about how different the land must have been when my ancestors were in the very same spot with their families. Now, I tend to think that sacred spot is wherever I happen to be at any given moment. As we travel, we are always seeing things we have never seen, maybe didn’t even know existed. There doesn’t seem to be the need to linger anywhere because something new is waiting around the next corner.

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