Northern Cree & Friends,
Round Dance Songs Recorded Live
(Canyon, 2002)

Round Dance Songs Recorded Live was taped on March 3, 2002 at Louis Bull Reserve in Alberta, Canada. Northern Cree, one of the leading round dance and pow-wow groups in the U.S. and Canada, hosted this round dance and invited the leading round-dance singers in Canada to attend. This recording was made during their performances and includes the sounds of the audience and dancers as well as the musicians. Eight groups perform 10 selections that range from three to six minutes, for a total run time of 44:54.

The primary difference in these selections and pow-wow music is the drums. These round dance songs feature hand drums, which have a cord across the back that holds the head across the drum. The drummer can manipulate this cord to produce a vibration effect with the sound.

The inside of the cover has an explanation of round dances and the way they are carried out. It tells about the cultural and social meaning and traditions of these dances. This is an enlightening piece of writing and provides details about the Canadian Indian culture.

Big River Cree has the strongest drum and least amount of vocal specials in this collection. The emcee in the background was an odd addition to their song. They should keep him to enhance their performance. The overlay of his voice is strangely hypnotic.

The Logan Alexis Singers are quite out of time with each other and are rather scattered about with their vocals. Each member seems to be doing his own thing with his own rhythm. Blackstone is outstanding, with the best harmony of all the groups and great timing. Little Island Cree has a great triple drumbeat and does a bilingual song. This was my favorite of the collection -- I really liked their message to save the children. The triple beat allows for a special foot play that looks good with fringe or beaded thongs.

Northern Cree performs a beautiful, bilingual love song, "Never Ever," with strong drum and little vocal extras. Gordon McGilvery utilizes yelps heavily and does a lot of other "vocials." Fly-In-Eagle is another out-of-time group with scattered vocals throughout the background. At times they come together, then they fade back into individualized performance of their bilingual song. Eya-Hey-Nakoda has better timing but is still weak with the harmony. They have one voice that is extremely off-key with the rest; it grates on your nerves and detracts from the performance tremendously.

A treat is the emcee's moose joke at the beginning of "Bay Watch Babies." But this is definitely not one of the better Native American live performance CDs available and I cannot honestly recommend it. I think it is likely best sold as a memento for those who attended this round dance. I feel the most of us are used to a higher quality overall performance.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 3 May 2003

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