various artists,
Prophecy 2: A Hearts of Space Native American Collection
(Hearts of Space, 2008)

The prophecy mentioned in the title is a real doozy. According to White Feather, a Hopi of the Bear Clan, the apocalypse is nigh, especially for greedy white people. But once you get past the liner notes, you'll find music that is somber but not pessimistic. A smooth blend of new age and Native American elements, Prophecy 2 is a well-chosen sampler of contemporary Native American music that nimbly avoids the worst excesses of new age.

The CD opens with Joanne Shenandoah's spare, mournful vocals on the dirge-like "Peace & Power," one of the more successful pairings of new age and Native American music on the CD. Not so with pianist Peter Kater's "The West," with its easy listening beat, jazzy sensibilities and odd sound effects -- the one track that clearly deserves the skip button, not so much because it's bad, but because it's out of place. Although Kater's other contribution -- "Recognition," a duet with R. Carlos Nakai -- is less jarring, I remain unconvinced the piano deserves any significant role in Native American music.

Prophecy 2 is most successful when its eloquent flutes and drums break through the haze of synthesizers and nature sounds. There's nothing wrong with the gentle "Echoes of Time" by Ah Nee Ma (Diane Arkenstone), but compared to Mary Youngblood's "Silent Wolf," its flutes sound tame and watered down. Youngblood's flute, accompanied only by light percussion, pulsates with life and sensitivity.

Other highlights include Coyote Oldman's ethereal, unhurried "Ancient Life," played on flutes so low and resonant you can almost feel them in your bones, and Johnny Whitehorse's galloping hymn to the free-spirited "Iron Horse," with its insistent drumbeat and floating flutes.

With a few brief exceptions, the 12 selections on Prophecy 2 are tasteful, atmospheric and accessible to someone without any prior knowledge of Native American music or appreciation of new age.

review by
Jennifer Mo

30 August 2008

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