While compilations that celebrate label anniversaries are often disjointed, Tribal: Special 20th Anniversary Collection strives to be more than a by-the-numbers look back. Earthbeat does a wonderful job of presenting their back catalog, sequencing the tracks in a way that makes Tribal a worthy journey on its own. From traditional sounds to new age tones to nearly pop songs, Earthbeat has released Native American music from many sides -- the young sounds of Native American rock being a notable exception -- and they've always balanced reverence and excitement. Their anniversary collection is no different, and while the liner notes could be meatier, it would be a challenge to present the label in a better light. A taste of the Rita Coolidge project Walela is thrown in along with Mary Youngblood's poppy "Skipping Stones," but the better part of the collection is filled with dreamy, wide-open, and earthy music that blends in contemporary sounds without getting gimmicky. The ambient nature sounds mixed in are used sparingly and never get in the way of the musicianship. Put the first track on and you'll likely be spirited away till the last, but Tribal also serves its purpose and entices listeners to venture further into the Earthbeat catalog. The label has released plenty of great Native American music, but you should definitely start here.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries