Mary Youngblood,
Beneath the Raven Moon
(Silver Wave, 2002)

Wow! There is so much that can be said about this CD. Many will think the most important information is that Beneath the Raven Moon has been nominated for a Grammy as Best Native American recording. Yet, poets will say that the most important fact is that this CD is a "poetic concept" album, with the title for each selection being a line from a poem written by Mary Youngblood.

Native American flute players will doubtlessly think the importance lies in the fact that each selection contains a different flute from Mary's collection, tuned to a different key and hand-created from a different wood. The jacket cover explains about the flutes, listing the type of wood, crafters and key. Singers will point out that this is the first collection to contain Youngblood's powerful voice, while music majors and professors will key onto the wide array of styles, including traditional, classical, contemporary, blues and vocal.

Personally, I think the most important thing about this collection is that Mary Youngblood has produced yet another collection of knockout music! That should be enough said for anyone that has ever encountered this lady's music. If you have not experienced her great talent, I urge you to order any of her CDs today. The first will hook you and you will soon be the proud and satisfied owner of all three. The other two are Heart of the World (1999) and The Offering (1998).

Just by reading the titles, you will discover a poem that touches your heart and sets the stage for the music that follows. The lines are so moving that your emotions will be fully engaged before the music begins. If you are open to journeying, this creates an ideal mood and mindset for the experience.

"Above the Mother Earth" has the most awesome breathe-through flute technique! You have to hear this one for it cannot be described. The thing that makes this technique so impressive is that Mary manipulates it right into the melody. Tito La Rosa joins with the bamboo flute for an awesome performance. The traditional hand drums will rock you.

"Laugh With Me" picks up the pace slightly with a beautiful tongued piece. From staccato to slurs and even rips, Mary demonstrates the widest range of tonguing techniques in this piece. It is reminiscent of Gypsy music because of the accompaniment. It begins with only a flute and drum then picks up the guitar. Soon, there is a mandolin, banjo and Marxophone. By the time you get the full-bodied accompaniment you will probably be dancing, especially if you do any Irish step dancing or clogging. Lean your head back, close your eyes, hold your arms out at shoulder level and see where this piece takes you. Go ahead -- free yourself to fully appreciate the effect of this piece.

"And We Will Fly" has a mountain dulcimer introduction to a staccato flute. This is folk art at its finest.

"Dream With Me" has the deepest, lowest-pitched flute in the collection. Those sensitive to tones will feel this one vibrate deep inside you. It is beautiful and haunting: totally mesmerizing! The only accompaniment is the water vessels, which serve to concretely enhance and reinforce the haunting nature. Oh, the beauty and power of this piece!

It would be so easy for me to talk on and on about this CD. I normally tell you which piece is my favorite, but that is absolutely impossible with this collection. I cannot narrow the field. Each piece stands equal to the others and all are exceptional. No matter what your mood or preferred music type, there is something here for you. If you listen to only one CD this year, make it this one. You will not be disappointed.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 12 July 2003

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