Monday, October 27, 2008

Arvel Bird

Native American fiddler and flautist Arvel Bird presents a blend of new age, country, and folk music, interspersed with plentiful advice to follow your dream, live healthy, never give up, walk the walk, save the environment, and so on. I could have used a lot less homily and a lot more music, for he really is quite talented both on violin and flute (actually, the instruments looked like wooden recorders.

He uses prerecorded accompaniment, swelling and swooning strings, to “augment” his sound, which is totally unnecessary. He is plenty good enough to play straight folk and Native music, but he apparently knows what works best for him. Bird is well-recognized, having released a dozen CDs and was named Native American artist of the year in 2007. He has toured with Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Louise Mandrell, and others. This picture is from his web site,, where you can also sample his sound. He was wearing some kind of weird gypsy outfit when I saw him.

I caught him at Javalina’s coffee shop in Tucson, a mecca for regional talent. He performed with Grammy nominee Will Clipman, a gifted percussionist, who we did not hear enough from. Bird kept him strictly in the background. Bird’s act emphasizes the kind of Native American music that practically defines new age; dreamy glissandi and multi-octave phrasing. This is not hard core “Hey-ya, hey-ya” ceremonial music. We are encouraged to imagine a red hawk soaring, rather than to appreciate the music on its own merits, a disservice to both the hawk and the music. His style is at its best when blended with rhythmic country and even jazz riffs, but there wasn’t much of that. I’m afraid I do not appreciate new age music, but I was aware of Bird’s (and Clipman’s) considerable talents and wished I could have heard them cut loose. Still, Bird’s is a high-energy act worth looking for.

Javalinas' performance calendar is .

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