Q&A with young Native American, Lakota John - an old soul with a love for traditional blues roots styles

"There are a number of components that connect Native American music with the Blues. For example, in both genres harmonization, rhythm, and powerful vocals are necessary to create an authentic sound."

Lakota John: Native Blues Soul

Lakota John is an old soul with a love for the blues. From Robeson County, North Carolina and born in 1997, John Lakota Locklear is no stranger to music. This Native American bottleneck slide player (Lumbee/Oglala Sioux) grew up listening to his dad’s music library. At 7 years old, he picked up one of his Dad's old harmonicas and at age 9, his first guitar. This lefty learned to play guitar in standard tuning and was intrigued by the sound of the slide guitar. At age 10, he bought himself a glass slide, placed it on his pinky finger and he has been sliding over the frets ever since. Some of his musical influences include Duane Allman, Johnny Winter, Robert Johnson, Hendrix, Derek Trucks, Jesse Fuller and many more.      (Photo by Greenhood & Duffy)

Lakota John received two scholarships, 2008 and 2009 to attend Centrum's Acoustic Blues Festival in Port Townsend, WA, where he participated in a week of workshops and jam sessions with the late John Cephas, Phil Wiggins, Terry "Harmonica" Bean, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton and many more. In 2009, he released his first CD "Old Bluez That's Newz to Me" and shortly after, Music Maker Relief Foundation began working with the guitar prodigy, Lakota John Locklear, as one of their "Next Generation Artists". Lakota John continues to learn alongside the elder bluesmasters, carrying on the traditional sounds of the acoustic Piedmont to the electric blues guitar styles and preserving his heritage with songs from the Native American flute. Lakota John performs as a solo artist; with his family band, Lakota John and Kin (which includes Miss Layla, his sister; his Dad, Sweet Papa John and Mama, Tonya) or with friends (electric band-George Johnson on bass, Tony Raimondo on drums and Joe Herring on guitar).

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?

Blues has taught me that the spacing of notes is equally as important as the notes themselves; the rhythmic patterns demonstrate simplicity and soul expressed in the genuine blues sound.

How do you describe Lakota John sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

It is very difficult to describe myself and sound. I like the rawness of the blues music and I try to make each song my own.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Well, blues music talks about life, it embodies the low moments, struggles, and pain we all face. It’s relatable, moving, and honest.

"Blues has taught me that the spacing of notes is equally as important as the notes themselves; the rhythmic patterns demonstrate simplicity and soul expressed in the genuine blues sound." (Photo by James Bass, 2015)

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

Every time I speak with elder musicians, I learn so much, not only about music but also about life. They’re all very important. The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to keep the blues tradition alive.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, workshops and studio which you’d like to share with us?

One of the most memorable music moments I’ve had was during the Music Maker 20th Anniversary Celebration in October of 2014 was being surrounded by so many talented and seasoned musicians.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the raw and gritty sound old blues has. I fear that one day Traditional Piedmont Blues will die. I hope that musicians continue to appreciate artists like Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Blake, and Blind Boy Fuller because along with many others, they were the true pioneers of Piedmont Blues.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Native American music and culture with the Blues?

There are a number of components that connect Native American music with the Blues. For example, in both genres harmonization, rhythm, and powerful vocals are necessary to create an authentic sound.

"Every time I speak with elder musicians, I learn so much, not only about music but also about life. They’re all very important. The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to keep the blues tradition alive." (Lakota John & Kin ~ Photo by Music Maker Relief Foundation)

Are there any similarities between the blues form/lyrics and the genres of Native American folk music?

Yes, both genres convey the message which tells of the hardships that Native Americans and African Americans both endured.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

My conversations with North Carolina Blues Legend, Mr. John Dee Holeman and visiting with Columbia South Carolina’s Blues Doctor, Mr. Drink Small, brings lots of smiles and laughter. I always learn a lot from my visits with the blues elders.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day?

Well, I would love to travel to Europe and have the opportunity to share my music with the folks there.

Lakota John - Official website

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