Red Road Crossing,
Native American Chants & Dances
(Interra, 1997;
Sounds of the World, 1999)

Native American Chants & Dances is a collection of ceremonial or pow-wow chants arranged in the order that they would be performed for the ceremony from the prayer to the Great Spirit for blessings upon the ceremony to the closing. Red Road Crossing employs a soft, melodic chant with few "special effects" vocals.

This group is quite different from most that are recording today. Most of their songs have a fast drumbeat that alternates with four slow, emphatic beats, goes back to the fast beat, then has four of the slow, emphatic beats on the offbeat or upbeat. In Native American dancing, the foot is supposed to strike the ground with the drumbeat, representing Mother Earth's heartbeat. I am used to the changing tempo, but when they hit on the upbeat, it forces a sliding shuffle. It is difficult to dance to this type of beat. It is especially prominent in "Butterfly Song."

Another difference is the baby in the background. This baby adds a unique voice to the chants by crying, squealing, whimpering and chortling on his own schedule. Also in some songs, there are no discernable female voices, in keeping with tradition, while in others there are several distinctive female voices, sometimes doing their own thing in disregard to the primary melody and rhythm. This spontaneity lends an air of spirituality to the work. You feel as if the energy of the Great Spirit is moving through the group. "Closing Rites" is the only song of the group that has the "special effects" vocals of the Plains, plus a couple of strong yelps. It is an intriguing song.

Women with bells attached to their regalia perform the "Jingle Dance." The sound of all these bells is extremely powerful, as anyone that has ever been in an area near a jingle dance can attest. Yet, on this CD, "Jingle Dance" is totally without bells or rattles. It seems stark and empty, especially when compared to the heavy rattles and bells in "Red Chant" and "Sun Dance."

Red Road Crossing is an Albuquerque, New Mexico, group consisting of Navajo and Sioux drummers, singers and dancers. Their name indicates the spiritual, emotional and physical path each individual chooses in life and how all tribes and nations intersect while living out these choices.

The group has an interesting style that is soothing and quite pleasant to the ear. If you enjoy practicing your round dancing or prefer a softer, subtler chant than the Northern Plains wailing style, this is an ideal CD. Red Road Crossing will make you pay close attention to the drum. I enjoyed all the songs and found a couple to be challenging for dancing. They definitely break away from the standard beat.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 20 September 2003

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