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Former Great Falls man pays musical tribute to Charlie Russell

Cary morin for web.png
Posted at 12:10 PM, Dec 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-21 14:10:02-05

GREAT FALLS — Inside the C.M. Russell Museumin Great Falls are countless paintings by the renowned western artist and extensive history regarding the legendary painter, including the iconic “Indian Hunters Return.”

A Native American musician who was born in Billings and spent much of his time growing up in Great Falls is honoring Russell with his latest album.

“Indian Hunters Return” is the second release off Cary Morin’s latest album, “Innocent Allies.”

The song is a tribute to one of western artist Charlie Russell’s most iconic paintings.

“In that particular painting, I tried to imagine the hunt and what happened afterwards from Charlie's image, that frozen moment in time,” said Morin.

The new album, is a return to the roots of Morin, whose mother was a Crow tribal member and whose father was an Assiniboine Malmstrom based airman.

Morin spent much of his life in Great Falls and graduated from C.M. Russell High School in 1981.

It was while growing up in the Electric City that Morin became drawn to Russell.

“Charlie's work was always there when I was growing up,” said Morin. “My dad really loved his stories and we always had all the coffee table books.”

Now living in Colorado, he looks at the latest album as a chance to tell the story of a western art legend.

“I think that this album is just a way to introduce people to Charlie's work. For people that already know him, it's a chance to celebrate a Montana hero.”

It was while on tour almost a year ago that the inspiration for “Indian Hunters Return” struck, with the help of his son Eli, a budding musician.

“I asked him if he'd like to take a stab at songwriting,” said Morin. “So, I showed him this painting ‘Indian Hunters Return’ and just said, “Let's imagine how this moment came to be.” And we started jotting down lines and put it all together. That's where that song came from.”

Morin’s musical journey has included sharing the stage with the likes of Taj Mahal, Los Lobos and Bonnie Raitt, playing everything from folk rock to country, and funk to reggae before settling on his current style.

“I eventually got back around to playing acoustic again, and that's really been my focus,” said Morin. “So the style of music that I do is kind of a combination of all that stuff with blues and country thrown in there too.”

"Indian Hunters Return" is one of 14 cuts on the album, many inspired by Russell. The first song to be released from the album was “Big Sky Sun Goes Down.” “Innocent Allies” is set to be released on January 26 and will be available on most music streaming platforms.