A Buffalo Based Band Led By the First Indigenous Inductee Into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame
by Matt Bauer
“We’re not really a blues band but we can play the hell out of the blues.”-Robert “Freightrain” Parker If you’ve been fortunate enough to have caught Freightrain on the first Friday of the month at the Sportsmen’s Tavern, you’re already familiar with Robert Parker and company’s invigorating and adept melange of soulful grooves. If not, consider the above quote an introduction to this nickel-city born and bred bassist extraordinaire who will be performing at the Christmas Jam and 7th Annual Toy Drive for Native American Youth at the Armor Inn Tap Room this Thursday, December 6 at 7 p.m.
The first indigenous inductee into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 2015 as well as the winner of the 2018 best blues album at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Indigenous Music Awards for the album “Live” (recorded at The Sportsmen’s), Parker’s first exposure to music was through his father’s group “The Iroquois Trail.”
“I didn’t know it at the time but you’re born with the talent, I believe, and they would leave all of their instruments there and I’d start fumbling around with them: drums, guitar bass,” explains Parker, who is of Seneca heritage.
An unsuccessful stint as a trumpet player in seventh grade led to a bass guitar at his father’s encouragement which was purchased with funds saved from Parker’s paper route. A first gig at the ripe old age of 13 ignited his now four decades and counting career.
“ I started to find my own way “ he says of his salad days. “I was heavy into soul and R&B: Average White Band and Tower of Power. They all had great bass players ; very melodic. What pushed me along was that I’m a very aggressive bass player. I love the pocket, pushing the pocket.”
Evolving organically from the remnants of the Willie Haddock Band three years ago, Freightrain Grace Lougen on guitars, Damone A-Miracale Jackson on drums, Greg Leech on keyboards, Parker on bass and the celestial vocals of Leslie Gardner and Simone Appleby, known as the Union have won a worldwide following, performing in Canada, the Caribbean and Europe.
“It was a dream of mine forever to have this kind of band,” enthuses Parker . The group flows onstage with vital musicality, embracing funk, soul, jazz, rock and blues into their own soulful stew while cannily avoiding the lazy anarchy that’s so often synonymous with the so-called “jam-band” scene. Prompted to define the band’s sound, Parker calls it “roots and soul” with the back-beat rhythm and blues drive of “The Buffalo Sound” formulated by the likes of Dyke and the Blazers, Raven and Rick James and The Stone City Band.
With 2016’s “Live” and its follow-up 2017’s “Outside Ourselves” in their discography, Freightrain continue to forge their own impressive path, one that Parker is determined to lead in a challenging and troubled music business.
“It’s a lot of hard work but this band deserves it. I’ll keep pushing until someone says yes, because I believe in it.”
For the upcoming Christmas Jam, there’s no cash cover charge, just a new or unwrapped toy must be donated, which will be personally distributed by Parker to four territories and two Family Service Agencies in Western New York.
Monetary donations are also welcome to provide instruments and lessons for Native Youth. “We just recently identified a young Native boy who will become a recipient. We will provide him with a guitar, amp and music lessons.”
You can check out Freightrain on the first Friday of each month at The Sportsmen’s Tavern 326 Amherst St., Buffalo or for more information check out https://freightrainband.com