Gentle Thunder,
with Will Clipman
& AmoChip Dabney,
Beyond Words
(Delvian, 2006)

Gentle Thunder is a Native American of Cree ancestry. She is essentially a self-taught musician who started making music as a rock 'n' roll drummer at age 14. Since then, she has expanded her repertoire to include the grand hammered dulcimer, Native American flutes, taiko and ceremonial drumming as well as piano. Her CD Beyond Words was nominated as Best New Age Album for the 2006 Grammy Awards.

Beyond Words is a collaboration with Will Clipman and AmoChip Dabney. Both musicians are well versed in their own rights. Will plays udu, djembe, Taos drums, drum set and hoop drums. Amo plays piano, keyboards, bass and soprano sax. On one track, "Glacier Tears," special guest Lumin plays strings.

Beyond Words is Gentle Thunder's third studio album and is very much an improvisational creation. In the liner notes, Gentle Thunder points out that many of the tracks are live first takes. Very impressive!

Beyond Words is an instrumental CD led mainly by the dulcimer and Native American flute. As new age/ambient music, the first several times I listened to the CD, I had a hard time maintaining focus. The music is transcendental. You might think it slips in to the background as Muzak, but it almost induces you in to a meditative state if you are not careful! I can say that when I did pay attention I could hear differences between the tracks, but no single track jumped out at me as more noticeable (either good or bad) than the others.

I think people who enjoy instrumental music with a spiritual feel, people who like music to move them beyond reality, will enjoy this CD. If you ever get a chance to see these three musicians perform (live or recorded), you will see they slip into something that allows the three of them to play almost as one. I can understand why Gentle Thunder received a Grammy nomination even if I will only play Beyond Words on occasion.

by Wil Owen
14 April 2007

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