Reviewed by Sheena Brings Plenty
One Feather contributor
Canyon Records, out of Phoenix, Arizona, has released two new Native American Church song albums; “Awakening of Life,” by Cheevers Toppah and Kevin Yazzie and “Rhythms Within a Turquoise Dream,” by Louie Gonnie. Both albums showcase the artists’ creativity and style and are sure to become hugely popular.
Now, we all know Cheevers Toppah and Kevin Yazzie are both amazing singers. Toppah, Kiowa and Navajo, has extensive choral training and is an accomplished powwow singer. Yazzie, Dine, has been singing both powwow and Native American Church songs since he was six years old. The two together are a force to be reckoned with! They have definitely created a unique sound and are the perfect pair because their voices are powerful and the harmonies and songs are strong. This is not the first collaboration for Toppah and Yazzie. Their previous album, First Flight, was a finalist for the Indian Summer Music Awards and Native American Music Awards in 2008, so I wasn’t surprised that this album was amazing as well.
On this album, they sing Kiowa, Dine and straight songs, six written by Yazzie, complete with notes about what inspired the songs. The songs are all very touching, especially when you read the notations, because you can hear and feel how much life and soul Toppah and Yazzie put into them.
All the songs have a fun and energetic yet serious quality about them and will get you keyed up to get moving either with work, art, or just living life. The songs I liked the best were the four harmonized songs at the end because they were beautiful. They turned the album in a different direction for me and I thought they rounded out the album well.
The other new album recently released by Canyon Records, “Rhythms Within a Turquoise Dream” by Louie Gonnie is incredible! Gonnie, Zuni, recorded this album with the help of Branson Emerson Gorman, Dine, who assists in drumming and singing harmony. All the songs were composed by Gonnie and the two men collaborated on the arrangements.
I found this album really interesting because of the additional sounds of Native American flutes, clay whistles, and keyboards as well as various nature sounds. They added a nice depth to the songs while enhancing and illuminating the voices of Gonnie and Gorman, the drum, and the rattle. The combination of the sounds gave the entire album a special feel and an extra dimension.
On the inside cover of the album Gonnie says that he was inspired to write these songs and record this album from a dream that he had. As you listen to the songs one by one, you become mesmerized and begin to see the picture he wanted to paint and you can almost see his dream within your own mind. That was the best part about the album for me.
Both of these albums have become instant favorites for me. They are very different in sound and style and should be in the collections of Native American Church song fans.