Vince Two Eagles
Sounds of America Records (SOAR)
I first met Vince Two Eagles during the Northern Plains Tribal Arts Festival, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in September 1995. The festival is the largest Native American arts fair outside of Santa Fe (New Mexico). Vince had agreed to play an in-studio performance during my Saturday afternoon program at KAUR. We had a total of four artists who came through the studio that day, all who performed at the festival. Two Eagles had just self-released his CD In America, a collection of folk guitar music seasoned with wooden flute and Lakota lyrics. The CD is now available on SOAR. His songs were touching; songs of lost love and the lost land, times that once were but are now gone. His 'unplugged' studio performance at KAUR—Vince with his guitar, his neice on drum—seemed especially moving.
His album captures much of that same spirit. His songs are simple, yet powerful. While the album's production casts an air of innocence. It is a feeling of quaintness: that feeling that we have stumbled upon a great discovery and we are the first to
have arrive at this place. It is that feeling I had when I stumbled upon this great songwriter, and then realized he only lived an hour from my house. A man from the "Middle-of-Nowhere, South Dakota," a man from an Indian Reservation who makes beautiful music.
Unfortunately, it is also the CD's production that strips away that feeling of first discovery. The occasional whitewash of a cheap Yamaha synthesizer just buries some of these songs. It's an album that tries too hard. This is not to say that Two Eagles is beyond praise as a songwriter and a performer. I had hoped for a rework of the album, at least a remix; something that would turn a good album into a great album. But it is unlikely that will happen. Two Eagles has contracted for one more album with SOAR, an Indian flute album that should appear in mid-1998. And then he says he wants to move on, to play the blues, "raz" as he calls it—jazz from the Rez. In America is one album that could have changed the face of Native American
popular music. It was a diamond, but a rough one at that. Poor production, marketing and distribution buried the disc before anyone had an opportunity to hear it. –Wayne Whitwam
Wood That Sings: Indian Fiddle Music Of The Americas
Here is an interesting anthology of songs performed by native Americans.
My first reaction to these recordings was that they were old. While much of the material may be, the recordings are all of relativley recent vintage. The most wonderful aspect of this release is the way the works are placed in relation to one another, almost like a musical map. It begins in Bolivia with a piece simply titled 'Violin' from Jose Enrique Benitez. We are moved from there to Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Agentina, Ecuador, Guatamala, and into Mexico. At this point you realize what is happening stylistically as we progress northward.
Familiar western styles begin to emerge, epecially when Mexico emerges.
From there we move into Arizona, and from there, clear up to Cape Bretton. Mi'Kmaq group the Lee Cremo Trio play relatively straight forward Cape Bretton style fiddle music much to my surprise. It becomes more of a tribute to native musicians themselves than another collection of traditional songs, otherwise obscure. When we arrive in Manitoba, the styles bend more toward country fiddling even including a bit of the 'Orange Blossom Special'. In the US, stops are made in Alaska, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. One of the highlights for me was Jimmie Laroque, a Chippewa from Norht Dakota and 'Road To Batoche', a song which reminded me of 'Jerusalem's Ridge', one of my all-time favorite fiddle-tunes. Another high-point is Georgia Wettlin-Larsen, Assiniboine Nakota from Wisconsin performing 'Turkey In The Straw' including vocals in both English and her native language. - Jonathan Colcord
After veteran songstress Rita Coolidge recorded the exquisite "Cherokee" for a collection of contemporary Native American music, she formed this group to explore the new territory she had opened up for herself. Calling upon their Native American heritage and their musical roots in gospel, Walela has created a singular album for herself akin to The Neville Brothers' "Yellow Moon."
Walela is Coolidge, her sister Priscilla, and Priscilla's daughter Laura Satterfield. Teamed with producer Jim Wilson, they create a lush choral voice that hovers over a spare but beautiful accompaniment of electronics and Native American drums and rattles. The result fuses spirituality and art, simultaneously calling to mind gospel, Native American traditional music and Brian Eno's diaphanous synthesizers. - Marty Lipp
Jerry Alfred And The Medicine Beat
Nendaa - Go Back
Many years ago Folkways released a remarkable album called Turtle Island Music that included music from some northern U.S. native communities. One of the remarkable and revealing things about that album was that it included songs that seemed to have as much influence from French, white American and Irish music as they did with the pre-Columbian cultures of the region. It also included a few tracks by a reservation rock band, complete with fuzz-box guitars and pounding kit drums. It opened up a new image of Indian culture, one that wasn't locked in the past, but was determined to be as contemporary as the rest of the American landscape.
Jerry Alfred seems to have distilled that idea into a vibrant new music that is contemporary, ancient, romantic and political. hailing from northeastern Yukon in Canada, Alfred is bringing the message south on this second Red House release of his music. What carries this message is a mix of sixties rock and First Nations story-telling. But unlike so much of the ridiculous new age pandering that goes on when a non-Indian musician gets his hands on a frame drum, The Medicine Band is assertively mixing rock and tradition in songs that acknowledge the contemporary world but are only willing to accept it on their own terms. The songs speak of the cruelty of white schools set up to orphan the children of previous generations, of the strangeness of returning to traditional ways after travelling far away, of how the old ways and the new ways both co-exist and resist one another.
The music itself drifts between drum and voice songs and full-blown (and occasionally overblown) rock. But there are unique touches everywhere that keep it moving ahead. Accordions and fiddles pull in country/Irish feelings. An ambient marimba may have no place in the tradition, but it is a perfect, icy touch to a song. Lyrics and spoken word mix English and Tuchone, telling ancient folk tales and modern stories. The Medicine Band is a good cure for pseudo-native new age, the over abundance of boring singer-songwriters and uninspired new rock. - CF
Jerry Alfred And The Medicine Beat
Etsi Shon - Grandfather Song
Red House Records (email@example.com)
There's been a whole lot of indigenous rip-offs in the music world lately, labels and artists who take the music of first peoples from around the world and make them marketable and cute for the pop music public, whether it's the digeridoo of Australia or the drum of North America. It's damn refreshing when someone realizes the real beauty of the music lies with its originators. Jerry Alfred And The Medicine Beat are a contemporary North American band with roots as deep as time itself. Etsi Shon - Grand father Song is an album of "native American" music that is neither bound by tradition nor destroyed by its timeliness. It's a strange mix of acoustic drum and voice music and a bent for 60s style acid guitars, a swirling mix that makes each track a surprise, yet never seems to be a cheap appropriation of the ancient to produce the modern. - CF
THE FIRE THIS TIME
Basslines and Ballistics
Extreme USA (firstname.lastname@example.org)
At twenty minutes, this is a concise, incisive look at native cultures in the modern world. Founder Pat Andrade has brought together an amazing cast of characters to bring a message of liberation and progress. Politi-dub master Oku Onuora makes his first appearence in a multi-cultural band, along with with folks from Africa, North and South America, the Caribbean and the north Atlantic. John Trudell, Chuck D and a host of other speakers raise their voices to the musical and social cause of unity between p eoples in a slow grooving, bass heavy dub travelogue/dialogue. Of partcular note is "Ohtokin," Onuora's slow building chant over a simple piano, bass and drum tells of the trials of disenfranchisement suffered by the "first nation" peoples. In its steady pace is a history of shame vs pride, faith vs theft.
And while on this subject, I want to step outside the music and recommend a book by James Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me (The New Press, NY). Here is a lightly written expose of the American history text book, its lies and ommissions brought to light in colorful, scathing looks at the primary sources (letters, documents, etc) and how drastically they vary from the twelve most popular texts used in the school systems throughout the country. Even a history buff will find shocking the reality of some of the "truths" we were raised with. Loewne takes a particularly hard look at racial and native history as taught through the American myths of origin and growth (Plymouth Rock and the Civil War being prime targets) in inciteful, well illustrated and documented prose. - CF
Heartbeat: Voices Of First Nations Women
With all the rush to get out recordings and TV programs about native Americans this summer, in a blaze of pop and syntho-new- age digitalia, here is a precious statement of what the music is really about. Here are women from all over the continent, singing the songs their grandmothers sang, and singing the songs they wrote and will sing to their grandchildren. Some are old, sung in the tradition, others are as fresh and innovative as anything around, yet all have a common thread of perseverance, hope and deep roots of respect. In the contemporary mix of Joanne Shenandoah or Buffy Ste. Marie, the vibrant a capella of The Six Nations Women Singers or the solo voice of Nancy Richardson, these 34 tracks offer a wide perspective, a vital common link that should be important to all people from all parts of North America and beyond. - CF
A Native American Odyssey: Inuit to Inca
Putumayo Records (www.putumayo.com)
This compilation of music represents some of the best of today's Fourth World culture. The roots of this music lie buried deep in the soil of the new world, and the shoots that have sprouted show the strength and diversity of this land and its people. The album goes from North (Kashtin and Tudjaat - Canadian Inuit) to South (Expresión- Peruvian Andes) to include examples of acoustic, folk rock, Brazilian jazz and Andean music. For me, the high point was Marlui Miranda's knockout singing on "Aruruna." Sadly missing, though, are traditional powwow songs and the new Black Indian beat. (You may want to add The Rough Guide to Native American Music to this for a more complete collection). Putumayo's recognizable, always cute folk art cover adds to the enjoyment of the album. All in all, this compilation is a very listenable collection of Native Music that fits together well, compelling the astute listener to wonder aloud to anyone who will listen, "Where has this music been hiding all this time?" - Brian Grosjean
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