Saturday, March 6, 2010

In review--More Peyote and Harmonized Songs

Chillon Paddock
(Peyote Songs of the Native American Church)
Canyon Records

Kevin Yazzie
Harmonized Peyote Songs of the Native American Church
Canyon Records

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed Native American recordings for WME. The 2 most popular types of music read on this blog are traditional Native American and Brazilian, thus far. And as far as the indigenous recordings go, peyote and pow-wow songs attract much attention.

I just received 3 new recordings from Canyon Records, but for review purposes and the sake of time, I will focus on the peyote song recordings. First, Chillon Paddock, a Dinè woman peyote song practitioner debuts on the label. She also painted the beautiful artwork that appears on the cover of Zephyr (Peyote Songs of the Native American Church), and she practices massage therapy. So you guessed it, her sets of peyote songs (each set contains 4 songs), provide deep healing potential.

Her uncle Louie Gonnie Jr. (who I have reviewed on this blog several times), came on as a co-composer and contributes his vocals on a few tracks. Gonnie’s vocals alone possess a healing timbre and when in harmony with his niece Chillon, the healing effect multiplies. While peyote songs in general can be jarring at times with the strange pitch of the water drum and buzz of the rattles, I found the songs on this recording relaxing. And they induced much needed sleep.

Not only did I find the recording relaxing, but I felt pleased to hear a woman singing peyote songs. I’m unaware of the number of Indian women following this tradition, perhaps it’s many, but this is the first time I have received a peyote song recording composed and performed by a woman. The feminine energy, as you might imagine, and this is not cliché or stereotype, feels nourishing and nurturing. I hope to hear more from Ms Paddock in years to come. In the meantime, I allow her songs to massage my aching muscles.

Also hailing from Arizona, Kevin Yazzie is no stranger to my ears. The latest recording by the Grammy nominee, Hope, provides Yazzie’s signature harmonized songs with the singer providing all the harmonies. His smooth vocals which easily glide from baritone to tenor and the range of tempos in which the sets of songs were performed, provide a profound healing experience. Though I wouldn’t describe these harmonized songs as relaxing, nor are they jarring or psychedelic. Yet, an immense spirituality comes through along with the singer’s compassion and soulfulness.   For anyone wishing to get acquainted with harmonized songs, this album would be a good place to start.

Similar to Gonnie, Yazzie composes and performs accessible harmonized songs along with stories. He dedicates songs to his third child and ends with a prayer song, the titular track of the album. For the more adventurous listener, try a double bill of Chillon Paddock and Kevin Yazzie, which provides approximately 2 hours of harmonized songs. Perfect for an energy healing practice, though check in with your patients’ comfort level. And by the way, Yazzie painted the beautiful cover art.

For those of you who prefer rousing pow-wow songs with mighty drumming and soaring mixed vocals (men and women singers), check out another new recording, Relentless by Oklahoma's Thunder Hill. Recorded live in Oklahoma, this championship group shows what they’re made of and the recording contains over 60 minutes of pow-wow drumming and singing.

Canyon Records

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