Christian Wallowing Bull’s new LP captivates with ‘grit folk’ sound

The Northern Arapaho artist reflects on life on the Wind River Reservation in "My First Buffalo Hunt."
Northern Arapaho singer-songwriter Christian Wallowing Bull. (Courtesy Photo)

Hailing from Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation, Northern Arapaho singer-songwriter Christian Wallowing Bull is passionate about sharing stories of Indigenous peoples in his music.

Winner of the 2021 Wyoming Singer-Songwriter’s competition in Ten Sleep, Wallowing Bull recently released a new full-length album “My First Buffalo Hunt,” a collection of original songs combining folk, blues, rock and traditional percussion. 

His deep, almost haunting voice, rises over a rhythmic guitar and kick drum – it is contemporary with strong echoes of the past. 

The working title of the album in its infant stages was “Kind Human.” It was a reflection of Wallowing Bull’s desire to have more kindness in his life after struggling with abandonment and addiction. As the album progressed, he said songs became filled with a certain grit and cultural resonance that reminded him of his first buffalo hunt, a significant moment in his life.

“It really was a rite of passage for me,” Wallowing Bull said. “Since that time, I’ve been wanting to capture that story and have maybe someone who’s not native, be able to understand.”

Christian Wallowing Bull performed the song “Tribal Resilience,” live on KHOL in advance of a weekend of shows presented by St. John’s Episcopal Church in mid-March.

As a youth, Wallowing Bull was attracted to rhythmic percussion, followed by an obsession with hip-hop. But when he picked up a guitar for the first time at age 15 his life changed. 

“I woke up one morning and my sister had a guitar, and she played a little bit, but not a whole lot. I asked her, ‘Can you teach me a chord or two?’ And pretty much since that day, I never put it down for about two years,” Wallowing Bull said.

Without formal guitar training or songwriting lessons, Wallowing Bull relied on his instincts to make music.  

“I’ve never been taught how to write a song or the process of approaching an idea musically, it was just something that was always in my heart,” Wallowing Bull said. “The way that I play music is, there’s a lot of grit to it. And my lens, the understanding that I have of reservation life is it’s so beautiful, but it’s hardcore. I mean, the land is hard. The people, the things that we’ve been through as a people, indigenous peoples, our history is rough. Writing this album, “My First Buffalo Hunt,” I really wanted to capture that grit and the soul of the indigenous person.”

Christian Wallowing Bull performing the song “Sweet Grass on My Dash,” live on KHOL.

Wallowing Bull hopes listeners will gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to grow up on a reservation where creative opportunities and resources for young people are far less available.

“I hope that people can see and feel the heart of indigenous peoples, especially those who are not native, who might not understand what it’s like to grow up on a reservation, who might not understand those kinds of hardships. What I’m trying to do is paint that portrait and create that emotional landscape for people to experience.”

Christian Wallowing Bull performing the song “Hiya Hiya Baby Boy,” featuring his partner Fiadh and their infant daughter Feather, live on KHOL.

Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with and performances by Christian Wallowing Bull.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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