Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kevin Locke Wins 2009 Nammy for Record of the Year

On Saturday, October 3, Kevin Locke won Record of the Year for Earth Gift in the 11th Annual Native American Music Awards (NAMA), held in Niagara Falls, New York. Kevin previously won a Nammy in 2000 for Best Traditional Recording for his album The First Flute.

Earth Gift was produced by three-time Grammy-winner Tom Wasinger, who explains part of the album’s unique genre-mixing attributes. “If we made it strictly traditional,” says Wasinger, “we’d have a small palette of sounds to work with. I sought out instruments that, although they are not traditional to this music, complement the essential sound, and in some ways are more related than one might think. For example, I built one instrument out of resonating stone cut from this continent. Even though Native Americans didn't build resonating stone instruments, I feel I can use them because the sound won't draw you to another part of the world,” the way a synthesizer or piano might.

Various tracks feature instruments that are firmly rooted in America’s past. The nail violin (a bowed set of tuned nails popular in the 18th century), the pianolin (a combination of piano and violin), and other once-commonplace variations on the zither (a category of instruments that have strings which stretch over a resonating chamber but do not extend beyond it) are from the same era, the late 1800s, as many of Kevin’s Lakota teachers and their songs.

Kevin says Earth Gift has “sounds that don’t tie things to a specific culture, tribe, or ethnicity. It really takes people into an area that transcends cultural specificity; place of universal appeal.” With the album, Kevin also endeavors to “invoke the reality that all of life can come to people through the act of singing.” Kevin sings on many of the tracks, but also incorporates Lakota vocalists Douglas Good Feather and Gracie RedShirt Tyon.

Earth Gift has also received favorable press reviews. Native People’s magazine calls Earth Gift “An album of rare beauty, with traditional Lakota thunder, eagle vision and animal songs.” Midwest Record magazine says, “Locke opens the ears to a dandy world beat within our borders excursion that expands the mind and cleanses the palette.“ Accent Magazine says, “Earth Gift spark[s] a new way of hearing Native American music.” Knoxville News-Sentinel says of Earth Gift, “The sound is surreal and mostly acoustic, driven by Locke's flute, native drums and guest vocals by Doug Good Feather and Gracie RedShirt Tyon. Locke achieves evocative tones without the assistance of synthesizers."

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