various artists,
Many Blessings:
A Native American Celebration

(Silver Wave, 2004)

Compilation records are like opening a box of chocolates: there is always hope that one will find something one likes. And if one is very very lucky, everything inside turns out to be to one's liking. I was very lucky. Many Blessings, a compilation of songs by Native American musicians, is a wonderful introduction to classic chants and to traditionally influenced modern Native American songs.

Having listened to Native American music for the first time, I think I've become a fan. Mary Youngblood and Robert Mirabal especially impressed me by their integration of the old chants and music stylings into modern styles.

Youngblood's "Passions to Ignite" is the first song on the CD. Her updated vocalizing of a classic chant along with the drums certainly ignite, sounding both sexual and joyfully triumphant. Another favorite was Mirabal's passionate love song, "Ruler of My Heart." Its mythic self-declaration of love is idealistic yet heart-felt. Both Mirabal and Youngblood manage to use the tones and nuances of traditional Native American music and other musical influences -- jazz, blues and rock -- to create songs that are accessible to those of us who might not "get" Native American chants.

People generally feel one of three ways about chants. It is the same way they feel about listening to a song sung in a language they don't speak. Listeners may be completely lost and unimpressed by both the words and the music. Or they may appreciate the music while the words leave them cold. Or they may think the chant or song succeeds on all counts. The traditional chants on this CD are well done. Lawrence Laughing's rendition of the traditional "Ska ka luk Sa" is meditative and pleading and should touch any chant lover, although those non-Native American listeners who are lovers of lyrics might feel at a loss because the meaning of the chant isn't clear.

The traditional drumming and fluting found on the songs of Peter Kater, R. Carlos Nakai and Tito La Rosa are a wonderful introduction to the meditative aspects of modern Native American music. Joanne Shenandoah's "The Great Law of Peace" and "I am Your Friend" definitely touched me. And Youngblood's very bluesy "Walk with Me" showed her skill with musical genres.

The music albums from which these songs originally were taken are listed in the album notes. This package is recommended.

- Rambles
written by Carole McDonnell
published 2 April 2005

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