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Lula Wiles are provocateurs of the best kind, rabble-rousers with the purest intentions. One of the brightest recent signees to Smithsonian Folkways, the Smithsonian Institution’s nonprofit record label, Lula Wiles are a Boston-based folk trio made up of Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland and Mali Obomsawin, and it seems like they’re hellbent on stirring up folk conventions for the better. They make traditional roots music stacked with warm harmonies, acoustic expertise and the occasional electric element, but there’s nothing antiquated about the subject matter of their songs. The three women, who were swapping songs at summer camp in Maine long before they attended college in Boston and became a band, sing with distinctly American voices, but they’re not afraid to question every single thing it means to be just that.
To that end, one of their most in-depth tunes is “Good Old American Values,” a single from their label debut What Will We Do, which is out this Friday, Jan. 25, on Folkways. It’s a striking critique of country music’s and American pop culture’s repeated abuse and misrepresentation of indigenous culture, and we’ve got the live music video for the track premiering today (Jan. 23) here at Paste, which you can watch below.
Obomsawin, a citizen of the Abenaki Nation, takes the lead on “Good Old American Values.” Here’s what she wrote about the song in the album’s liner notes:
As an Indigenous songwriter, I hope that it becomes equally unacceptable to write and sing anti-Native lyrics as it now is to write and sing anti-Black lyrics. Unfortunately, Indian hating is a good old American tradition. In fact, American culture has depended on it. ... The best I can offer is to reclaim and repurpose the rhetorical and aesthetic space of country music carved out for me by colonialism, in pursuit of beauty and truth.
Elsewhere on the record, Lula Wiles tackle small-town tribulations on “Morphine” and “Hometown,” love’s selfish side on “Shaking As It Turns” and crushes gone wrong on the witty “Nashville Man.” Even as they play raw, old-time melodies and whittled-down folk arrangements, they’re sharing honest, modern music told from a refreshingly smart millennial perspective.
Again, you can watch Lula Wiles’ new video for “Good Old American Values” below. Further down, see the band’s recent Paste Studio session and tour dates. You can pre-order What Will We Do here.
Lula Wiles Tour Dates:
06 – Portland, Maine @ One Longfellow Square
07 – Northampton, N.H. @ The Parlor Room
08 – Lebanon, N.H. @ First Congressional Church
09 – New Hartford, N.H. @ Nights at the Beekley
23 – Toronto, Ontariou @ Burdock
24 – Wakeman, Ohio @ Riverdog
26 – Chicago, Ill. @ The Hideout
27 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa @ CSPS Hall
28 – Madison, Wis. @ Sugar Maple Concert Series at North Street Cabaret
01 – Nisswa, Minn. @ Grassroots Concerts
02-15 – Home Routes Tour of Manitoba
19 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ First Ave & 7th St. Entry
26 – Washington D.C. @ Pearl Street Warehouse
27 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Locks at Sona
28 – New York City, N.Y. @ Rockwood Music Hall, Stage Two