Black Lodge Singers
These three new releases from Canyon show the disparity of approach used by contemporary pow-wow musicians. Respected pow-wow stalwarts Black Lodge show why they are one of the most in-demand drums on the circuit today. (A 'drum' is a group of singers and drummers who gather around a large communal drum.) Their sound has a muscular energy and strong, integrated vocals. The songs on this release, all newly composed by drum members, are sung in English and in Blackfeet. The members of Black Lodge are primarily Blackfeet, though there are members who are Cree and Rock Creek. Family integrity is a big part of their sound, as most are members of Scabby Robe family. It shows in their tight, well-seasoned vocals and powerful rhythmic drive.
Tha Tribe and Young Bird are less established yet are just packed with youthful energy. Tha Tribe has a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners aggressiveness to their sound. Full of whoops and yells and ululations, this Kansas-based, multi-nation group is as in your face as a drum can get. One drawback to this release is some spoken-word tracks. Over what sounds suspiciously like canned applause, a WWF-ready announcer introduces every member of the drum, and the group presents some lame little skits between a couple of the tracks. Other than that trendy artifice, though, 'N Action is loads of fun to listen to.
Young Bird, a multi-nation Oklahoma drum, has a more controlled sound with deep, powerful, almost operatic vocals. There are some standout soloists in this group. Their sound has a maturity and stately elegance lacking in many younger groups, yet they are not above dissolving into a joyous whoop or two at the ends of some of the tracks. These three releases provide some good compare-and-contrast material for those who think that pow-wow music all sounds alike. - Peggy Latkovich
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