Coyote Oldman,
In Medicine River
(self-produced, 1992)

This well-crafted collection of moody, atmospheric songs from the group Coyote Oldman is exactly what you would expect to hear when you listen to a Native American CD: traditional music with an ancient feel, with modern ambient sensibilities. The tracks are purely instrumental, relying heavily on the effect of Oldman's flutes (based on 150-year-old Lakota artifacts) combined with a rich palette of genuine pre-Columbian ocarinas and panpipes, as well as log drums, bells, shakers and bass drums. A steady, solid drumbeat throughout lends a transient feel to the dreamlike arrangements, all of which flow together in one solid, easy-to-swallow whole that ends all too soon.

"Dawn Procession" leads the way with its serious, almost achingly sad tone gently pulling you in. "Crane Dance" keeps the flow going with a peaceful, soothing flute duet that lulls you into a dream state and keeps you there with "Aqui Sempre," while the title track, "In Medicine River," is an ethereal song that uplifts and relaxes at the same time.

"Log Drum" is as haunting as it is soothing, while "Pre-Columbian" pays tribute to the artifacts used in its interpretation of traditional Plains music. "Little Medicine River" is full of drums and rattles, woven into simple yet complex melodies by the deft hands of Michael Fitzsimmons and accompanied by Michael Graham on the flute melodies.

Drums are the forefront of each song, with the little gem "Otter Dance" providing the liveliest tune on a mostly somber and serious collection. "River Song" rounds out the collection with a steady, measured dialogue between drum and flute that's as gentle as it is concise. In Medicine River is soaked in the feel of the past, with enough innovation in its interpretation to be completely modern.

In Medicine River is perfect for anyone looking for a great introduction to traditional Native American Plains music. Its spellbinding, sensuous songs are as easygoing as they are elaborate. This is an excellent CD for writing poetry or meditating.

- Rambles
written by Mary Harvey
published 17 April 2004

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