various artists,
Utes: Traditional Ute Songs
(Canyon, 1998)

Utes: Traditional Ute Songs, originally recorded in 1974, represents the three most important musical styles of the Ute culture: the War Dance, Sun Dance and Bear Dance, the latter of which is unique to the Utes. This is beautiful music and ranks among the finest available in Native American singing.

When the music begins, you will immediately note a remarkable difference in drumming. It is almost overwhelming. It sounds as if the drummers are holding the stick at an angle that allows the body of the stick to contact the edge of the drum. There is a distinct "stopped" effect with a clicking sound, much like the effect of a rain stick.

The singers maintain a wonderful harmony throughout. At a few points they layer their vocals, but for the most part, they maintain harmonies on the lyrics. Strangely enough, the endings of the songs are usually ragged with everybody tapering off whenever the mood strikes instead of executing a distinct conclusion, adding an individualistic quality to the music.

My favorites are the Bear Dance Songs, which have a serene, otherworldly quality. They are a fine way to welcome spring and cleanse the soul. The War Dances are in the Northern style, which is slower and at a higher pitch than their Southern counterparts. The featured performers are Eddie Box Sr., Jim L. Box, Eddie Dutchie, Gilbert Dutchie, Lonnie Dutchie, Gerald Ketchum and Kenneth Frost.

The inside of the cover provides detailed information on the Ute history and culture and the history and significance of each of the song types, including a legend about the Bear Dance that is fascinating.

This wonderful collection takes you inside the most important of the Ute ceremonies and may inspire you to welcome spring in your own way. You might feel the urge to join the dancing and celebration as you listen to these songs. This is a vital piece for any collector of Native American music. If you like Native American singing, get this. It is beautiful!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 4 September 2004