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Various Artists

Think Global: Native America

(Oxfam; US: 25 Mar 2008; UK: 24 Mar 2008)

The Think Global series seems to be aimed at people who are too overwhelmed by unfamiliarity to buy one of the more serious Rough Guides but still sufficiently curious to risk money on something new. They’ll take a chance on Acoustic Brazilians or African Women, feeling reassured by the friendly cover photographs and the series’ track record of sincere and likeable music. On the outside, Think Global: Native America looks as if it should be more of the same. Here we see a Native American in warm colours looking thoughtful behind his beadwork. On the inside, however, we’re confronted by the fact that none of the music here has the easy catchiness of the Acoustic Brazilians, or the bold charm of the African Women. It moves to a repetitive ritual beat, with steady drumming and sometimes a flute. Lyrics are chanted, or half-chanted half-sung. When Buffy Sainte-Marie brings electric guitars in on “Cho Cho Fire” she sounds out of place. She’s a touch of humanising brashness on an album so pleasant and serious that it might make you paranoid about Native Americans. No group of people should be made to sound this relentlessly nice.

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