Bill Miller,
Ghost Dance
(Vanguard, 2000)

Though lyrics such as "Don't you know the sun is gonna rise again," or "For every mountain I climb/For every river that winds/For every wind that will blow/I will send out my prayers/For the children below," or "So many hills that we have climbed/so many trails we left behind ... the journey isn't over yet," or "I wanna go where the blind can see/I wanna go where the lame will walk" are all suggestive of a tone like that of bad teen poetry, or at best a rather sophomoric attempt at compelling songwriting, this album's success is largely rooted in its almost ceaseless musical intensity.

Bill Miller's thin, hollow voice is often wanton for distinction, conviction or just plain soul, but almost every song offers hypnotic rhythms and subtle melodies that gently sink into your bones; melodies both instrumental and vocal. Songs like the musically harrowing "Ghostdance" or the unusually ambitious instrumental, "The Last Stand," are just two examples of why this album won five Native American Music Awards.

One major impetus that drove me to purchase this album was that it is released on the legendary Vanguard label, which never puts out any substandard material and has put out a few great folk albums recently, most notably John Hiatt's Crossing Muddy Waters. Miller's album is no less folky than Hiatt's, any "native" tinge to the music is only suggested and never pervades. Part of me would have liked a bit more exploration of Native American sounds, but there is also the folk lover in me who says that this is an above-average folk album.

- Rambles
written by Gianmarc Manzione
published 31 May 2003

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