Blackstone,
Pictures of You: Round Dance Songs
(Canyon, 2002)

Blackstone presents an array of songs about love, loss and everyday life in Pictures of You. They are extremely skilled in producing various effects with their hand drums, usually having a double backbeat or echo effect. Many of their pieces are bilingual and are more accessible to a wide audience.

This group frequently produces songs that are multi-dimensional with several simultaneous parts layered upon each other. They also rely heavily upon vocals and the widest range of special vocal effects. They are a distinctly Northern Plains wailing style to the max.

The sound of Blackstone is quite youthful. It is easy to discern their youth from the pitch of their voices. The female voices are awesome, blending well to overlay the male voices with a superb soprano. You will marvel at the length of some of their notes. One of them has a holding power to rival Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey!

My favorite of this collection is "Twelve Nights of Round Dance," about how the approaching round dance season is the best time of the year. This song speaks volumes about the cultural important of dancing in the Native American world. I also particularly liked "The Melody Tree," which demonstrates the power of the females' voices' and their ability to bridge across keys and harmonize.

These guys have at least a dozen distinct yelps, from a long drawn-out series of connecting yelps to a staccato, high-pitched hit. At times, one will be ascending while another is descending. It makes for intriguing listening.

Blackstone drumming tends to remain steady, much more than than a lot of other groups. They set their drumbeat and hold it at that rhythm, relying upon the vocals to change the rhythm as desired. This makes their songs especially easy to dance to. You are not doing slides and shuffles to keep pace with the drum. I really like that. It allows the dancer to relax and flow.

The members of Blackstone are Jennifer Paul (Stoney), Daphne Alexis (Stoney), Arnold Alexis (Stoney), Randy Paskemin, Marc Long John, Rocky Morin, Garnet Whitecalf, Devere Tsatoke (Kiowa/Commanche), Leo Paskemin, Nate Littlechild, Terry Paskemin, Adrian Cross, Dallas Waskahat, Brian Waskewitch, Delia Waskewitch and Tiffany Paskemin (Apache/Navajo). (Members not designated otherwise are Cree.)

The selections included on Pictures of You are: "Twelve Nights of Round Dance," "The Scout," "Alone," "Demaise," "New Year's Wind," "My Real Life," "Reminisce," "The Melody Tree," "Pictures of You," "Zone 7" and "Green River."

Blackstone is a tremendously talented group with a unique sound. Their songs will intrigue you. You can listen to these songs repeatedly and discover new vocials and effects each time. Their layering is incredible.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 6 April 2003



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