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Album Review

October 04, 1994|STEVE HOCHMAN

* * *

ROBBIE ROBERTSON & THE RED ROAD ENSEMBLE

"The Native Americans"

Capitol

Forget what you probably think about Native American music. While traditional drumming and chanting provides the thread that runs through this ambitious collection, the wide range of contemporary aesthetics Robertson and his roster of top native musicians utilize is striking.

The real stunner is "Mahk Jchi" (The Heart of the People), a lilting melody sung by the female trio Ulali that could easily be mistaken for a Gaelic tune. Other tracks have a mystical, world-music quality that is often hypnotic, transcending their film-score duty and standing on their own merits.

The several more "conventional" songs featuring Robertson's limited voice benefit from the haunting, spiritual atmosphere, though at times his lyrics make somewhat forced use of historical native legends. But Robertson never tries to steal the spotlight from the talented people he's enlisted, and with luck this will bring their own work to wider attention. New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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