From: Canadian Folk Music / Winter 2007-2008
Reviewer: Lynn Whidden (Brandon, Manitoba)
Title: Prayers for My Father
This sound recording represents the story of a family's life in the Native American Church ("NAC"). Three generations of the Denny family have worked to establish and develop this peyote-centered church on the Rocky Boy Reservation, Montana. The NAC stresses both song and eating of the peyote to achieve deep religious experience, and the songs are central to the spread of the ceremony across North America.
The CD notes tell the story of how their family efforts to spread the NAC often faced opposition from other community members. Other traditional music and beliefs live on, such as the well-established Plains music traditions embodied in the Sun Dance and the powwow. Indeed, the Rocky Boy Reservation has a well-known powwow drum group. After initial reluctance to record the songs, the Denny family realized the value of recorded song to carry the NAC message.
In contrast to the detailed information on the family, threre are no notes on what makes this music so mesmerizing. It consists of a small water drum and rattles. Both are played with a light rapid beat, and the beating of the two instruments is synchronized.
Melodic contours, sung with easily remembered vocables, undulate around a fixed pitch. After a "call" by lead singer Denny, he is joined in harmony by Primeaux. Denny and Primeaux have achieved a pleasing blend, and sing with ease. Because NAC services continue throughout the night, this effortless vocal production is necessary. There are four sets of songs during the service: opening, midnight water, dawn water, and the closing song. Each song is sung four times.
Wheather you are a member of the Native American Church or not, this recording is worthwhile for its intrinsic music value as well as its deep roots in North American Native music history.