Robbie Robertson &
the Red Road Ensemble,
Music for the Native Americans
(Capitol, 1994)

I would suggest that, after you buy this CD, you order several more copies. It's necessary since you will definitely want to hold onto the copy you have, and friends, upon hearing it, will borrow it and never give it back. My best friend learned this the hard way when she was forced to buy her three roommates their own copies so she could listen to hers. I now keep two or three on hand just in case. I have bought seven others, but I still have my original one.

Originally a soundtrack for a television special, the music that Robbie Robertson and the various artists featured here stands alone, needing nothing but a machine upon which to play and an ear to hear it. The music is haunting and haunted. Each song has its own independence, and yet, as a whole, the CD flows together like a river of music that carries you almost without notice from beginning to end. The widely varying styles complement each other rather than detract, a miracle in itself. Robbie carries the listener into the native experience, into the mystic world, often alien to the modern world, and yet so naturally portrayed in the lyrics of these songs. The history of the Indian wars found in "It Is a Good Day to Die" sits comfortably with "Skinwalker," a modern native woman's search for identity in an alien world.

This is a fine piece of artistic sociology, sociological artistry and psychological spirituality, with tracks including "Coyote Dance," "The Vanishing Breed," "Golden Feather," "Deeds of Blood," "Cherokee Morning Song" and "Twisted Hair." The songs are musical pieces, jazzy, slow and sad, fast and angry and all in between. The music is expertly performed, lovingly crafted. The vocals are a dream of harmony and emotional strength. The songs are easy to pick up and and to sing along with, even the ones not in English. It will be your favorite CD. Buy several. Trust me.

[ by Debbie Gayle Rose ]

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