While I have heard of Mary Youngblood before, this is the
first CD of hers that I have actually reviewed. After just one playing I
realized what a treat I’ve been missing. Dance With The Wind is an excellent
Native American-fusion/acoustic instrumental album (with three equally great
vocal tracks as well) and I heartily recommend it to those who enjoy
flute-acoustic ensemble music with a pronounced (although not overwhelmingly
so) Native influence. Certainly it stands toe-to-toe with releases by Mark
Holland’s fine group, Autumn’s Child. The album flows with an unforced
gentility and sweetness, like a tonic for all the sorrow, despair, and
negativity that pummels our souls in today’s misery-plagued world.
Flutist Mary’s main collaborator is Tom Wasinger who handles
guitar, percussion, bass, and more than a few other instruments, plus
several other accompanists on selected tracks as well. Wasinger’s adroit
finger work on guitar is immediately heard on the opening “Misty Rain” which
is also one of my favorite tracks, flowing with a gentle sense of movement
and featuring Youngblood’s emotive flute playing (Eric Levine’s violin and
Jody Price’s cello add a wonderful texture to the piece as well). “Wind
Whispers” has a slightly more mystical sound to it, along with subtle
rhythms, courtesy of Mark McCoin’s slit drum and percussion. Youngblood
overdubs on alto and wooden flute and the result is musical magic. Proving
that she can throw a little pep into the fusion hopper, “My Gypsy Soul”
might induce the more free-spirited listener to tap his/her toe or even
dance a little jig around the room.
Youngblood proves to be an excellent vocalist and lyricist
as well on the three tracks which feature her fine singing talents:
“Play with Me,” “Make an Offering,” and the title track, Dance With The Wind.
This is one time when a primarily instrumental album is actually enhanced by
the inclusion of some vocal tracks, and I don’t know that I have ever made
that statement before in my almost ten years of reviewing. Her lyrics are
sincere, heartfelt, and (dare I say it) meaningful without carrying a hint
of pretension -- well done indeed! The music on the vocal tracks could best
be described as folk in nature, although with her flute playing added to the
mix, there is, of course, the Native influence as well. Of the three, I
would rate “Play With Me” as the best. It’s an outstanding track, with her
sublime voice multi-tracked at different octaves, and on headphones it’s
drop dead beautiful.
“Dance With Me” is a high energy tune with Wasinger shining
on no less than four instruments, while “Reach For The Sky” showcases
Youngblood’s ability on piano besides her usual flute. The song is sedate
and somewhat sad in tone, but not in a way that derails the overall positive
vibe of the CD. Another of my personal faves is “On Our Journey” on which
Youngblood (as she does many times on the album) allows others to to step
out and shine (Wasinger, Levine, and Price are all on this track, just as on
the first song). There is a bonus “hidden” thirteenth song on the CD too: a
deeply spiritual tribal piece featuring Native drums and percussion and
Youngblood’s flute (and subtle synth textures at the song’s outset).
I sure do like Dance With The Wind. I like it a whole lot.
It is one of the most engaging and “friendly” releases I’ve heard this year.
The music makes me want to get to know Mary personally, and that is high
praise in my mind. Even if you don’t usually consider yourself a fan of
Native American fusion music, but you enjoy acoustic ensemble (flute-led)
instrumentals, you need to look into getting this CD. And, I’d be surprised
if the vocal tracks don’t win you over as they did me. I highly recommend
this excellent recording and I hope it finds a wide audience because heaven
knows it deserves one.