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Cary Morin Honors Life in Crow Tribe Country and Works of Western Artist in New Album

Cary Morin Honors Life in Crow Tribe Country and Works of Western Artist in New Album


Nature is often said to be the source of inspiration for many artists.

For Cary Morin, an Indigenous fingerstyle guitarist and songwriter based in Fort Collins, inspiration struck him while on a perch overlooking the Colorado River at Rancho Del Rio nestled in the Rocky Mountains. The musician, with his wife, Celeste Di Iorio, and two golden doodles, Bia and Bishké, in tow, had made a stop at the spot while traveling back from a tour a couple of summers ago. 

The first song of Morin’s newly dropped album, “Innocent Allies,” titled “Big Sky Sun Goes Down” emerged as he soaked in the natural landscape. 

“When the big sky sun goes down, when the spectrum of the light of a skyline and a distant memory beneath us is a song to me, this land is talking to me, I cannot falter now,” Morin croons in the song.

That song set the tone for the rest of the album, which commemorates the artwork of Charles Marion Russell — who produced several paintings of Native Americans, cowboys, and the western U.S. terrain — and Morin’s life in Montana.

Cary Morin, an Indigenous artist based in Fort Collins, released a new album called “Innocent Allies.” Courtesy photo from Backstage Flash.

“All of the time I spent in Montana and pretty much [anywhere in] Montana is surrounded by Charlie Russell’s work,” Morin said. “His sculptures and his paintings are in a lot of different places. It kind of became a part of life seeing his work… It was almost like his art was just for us. And it was about us. And it was about the land I was surrounded by all of the time.” 

A longtime resident of Colorado, the 62-year-old artist and Crow tribal member was born in Billings, Montana. But he grew up in a town northwest of his birthplace called Great Falls, near the Missouri River, and spent his childhood days watching and admiring local musicians on stage whether it was a gifted piano player strumming strings of the instrument at a downtown venue or bands performing at house gigs in country bars. 

“Some of the lines in the album come from my relationship with my grandfather, and some of it comes from memories of being around him and being around the Crow people and being around Crow country,” Morin said about “Innocent Allies.” “You know, it’s mostly, when I saw Native people depicted in Charlie Russell’s paintings, whether he was depicting Crow people or not, I always thought about Crow people. I thought about my family. It was almost like it was my family in the paintings.” 

Morin’s Americana roots music not only blends sounds of the countryside, but mishmashes elements of several genres including folk, soul, and bluegrass.

Morin credits Matt Lyon, a friend and bandmate from his high school days, for helping to influence his musical stylings by introducing him to albums from artists such as Dan Hicks and Kelly Joe Phelps. Records from musicians like Cat Stevens and Neil Young, to name a few, further fueled Morin’s interest in learning to play the guitar, a self-taught skill.

However, it wasn’t until his family moved to Colorado in 1982 that Morin decided to pursue a music career. The family first settled in Windsor before Morin moved to Greeley, where he met new friends whom he performed with at open mics. The migration to the Centennial State also led to his discovery of more artists and exposure to musical movements and trends. 

Morin’s music career blossomed in the late 1990s with the formation of a rock-reggae-blues band called The Atoll, which toured the U.S. for decades. During the span of his career, he’s won several awards including the Indigenous Music Award for Best Blues CD in 2017 and 2019, the Native Arts and Cultures Fellowship in 2018, and the Independent Music Award for Best Blues CD in 2018. He was also named the Telluride Blues and Brews Blues Champion in 2019. 

Nowadays, Morin performs as a solo artist, with his wife and music partner, Celeste, and with his roots-rock band, Cary Morin & Ghost Dog. Occasionally, he works jointly with Pura Fé, an Indigenous blues artist from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. 

This year, Morin and his band have tours scheduled across the U.S., including two in Colorado in March. They are scheduled to perform at the Armory in Fort Collins on March 8 and at the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont on March 14.  

For his latest album, the lyrics came before the melodies. Morin jotted down words on paper before dedicating special attention to the notes. Sometimes, his creative process is reversed. Other times, the words and melodies materialize simultaneously. 

Although he may be a veteran musician, the desire to continually evolve as an artist still tugs at him.

“I want to improve on what it is that we do, whether it’s touring, recording, writing songs – that’s like a lifelong quest I think for me,” Morin said. “I always continue to learn….I still learn chords. I still learn new ways of doing things. [With] recording, you’re never going to know everything there is to know.”

“Every time we put out an album, I want it to somehow top the last one,” he added. “It’s creating art and the effect that the art is going to have on people. I hope it has an impact on the listener.”


Shen Wu Tan
Shen Wu Tan is a freelance writer with over six years of reporting experience. She's worked for four different news outlets including an organization in Cape Town, South Africa. Her news coverage spans a wide variety of beats including courts, legislation, health, business, and more.

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