Artist: Medicine Singers
Album: Medicine Singers
Release Date: 01/07/2022
Location: Rhode Island, United States
Rhode Island based musical collective Medicine Singers have created something truly special with their debut self-titled album. They combine traditional Native American powwow music with numerous other genres and styles to create something that has never before existed.
While the album may be somewhat short, it is incredibly powerful and manages to fit a massive number of varied elements into its 30:09 run time. They manage to work in everything from the aforementioned powwow music through to spiritual jazz, blues, rock, psych, electronic music and even some punk elements. The inclusion of powwow music with more modern genres gives the album a truly timeless quality to it and brings in a spiritual element. The fusion of spiritual jazz with music that already holds a mystical quality only deepens this essence.
The production on the album is a key element of its unique sound and atmosphere and for that we have Israeli producer, guitarist, and composer Yanton Gat to thank. He also contributes some stellar guitar work on the album that is a must listen. The mixing is also flawless, as each element emerges from the fold in a way that not only showcases its individual qualities but also elevates the elements around it.
There’s a multi-layered complexity at play here and a sort of duality or juxtaposition. While this is true of the music itself, I feel that it operates on a level deeper than that. The music is just the catalyst for a more profound truth, which is the fact that indigenous peoples the world over are forced to exist in multiple realities simultaneously. In most cases they are forced to adapt to and exist in a modern societal reality while also trying to maintain their culture, heritage, and way of life as much as possible. There’s a constant overlap that creates a this entirely other existence that sits between the two and I feel that this album perfectly embodies that middle ground between heritage and modernity. This duality exists not just between realities but in regard to time itself, as some songs were created by the band, while others date back centuries, blurring the lines between past and present.
I feel as if the project has done a stellar job of building and maintaining a certain level of atmosphere throughout the album. While that atmosphere may change constantly the listener always feels immersed in the music completely. We are taken from spacey, mind-altering psychedelic elements through to smooth spiritual jazz, moody blues, ambient electronic parts, and everything in between. Present throughout are those all-important powwow elements that give the album the unique atmosphere that it has, these are particularly immersive and really draws the listener in.
The album also seeks to show the influence that traditional Native American music has had on contemporary music genres, through its unique rhythms and beats. No song does this better than track 7 Sunrise (Rumble), a cover of Shawnee guitarist Link Wray’s well known track ‘Rumble’ that breathes new life into the song and expands the Native influences to be an integral part of the track.
Overall, the album is well worth your time and will really expand your knowledge of both Native American music and the influence that it had on numerous other genres of contemporary music. I highly suggest taking the time to actually read the album notes on Bandcamp as they will give you a far greater appreciation of just how special this release is and why it needed to be made.
Listen to and order the album: