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World Music CD Reviews North American

Harmony Nights

By Randall Barnwell
Published January 14, 2008

Native American Vocal Harmony

Grammy-nominated singers Alex E. Smith and Cheevers Toppah join with Nitanis “Kit” Landry to deliver the Native American disc of the year. Ever heard Native American vocal harmony? Think again. Ever been to a Pow Wow? Think again. The sonorous qualities of Smith and Toppah are fairly unequaled by anything coming out of Native America for the last 10 years—no disrespect intended. This group should be touring the globe to heal the impression other nations have of America these days. Occasionally, gentle frame drums or a plaintive solo flute slowly bubble and flow under chants that follow tradition— to a point. Then, a sudden left turn with “Southern Man,” a sweet track that pulls the listener into 21st century romantic love song territory. Sung in English, the group takes Western harmony and fuses it to Native music. Native American singers: Wake up, a new standard’s been set.