Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Native America

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There are plenty of Native American compilations available, but unfortunately, most of them are skewed to the new age/spiritual end of the market. This, which includes a number of cuts from the Canadian First People, is much truer to reality. Yes, there's flute and yes, it's R. Carlos Nakai, but his duet with slack key guitarist Keola Beamer is a thing of very pure beauty. There's a good variety of music including some unexpected items, like Blackfire, normally out-and-out punks, taking on a more traditional feel in "American Indian Movement Song," and the reggae of Casper Loma Da-Wa, a reminder of just how global roots reggae has become. Tradition is important, but traditions evolve and take on colors from other cultures, so a country song and some norteño seem to fit in perfectly well here, too. A lack of hip-hop, which is very popular with the young on the reservations, is an omission, but not a deadly one. The bonus CD, from Pura Fe, adds a different thread, a mix of Native American music and blues, one that forms a surprisingly natural combination.

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