Music Reviews

Robert Mirabal with the Rare Tribal Mob

Music From the Painted Cave


Music From the Painted Cave is something of a summation of Robert Mirabal’s career thus far. Mirabal began performing as a dancer at Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. He became known as an accomplished flutist and more recently has come into his own as a singer and songwriter. This live recording is the soundtrack to a PBS special of the same name. It collects new material and new arrangements of previously released songs. It’s a good introduction to Mirabal’s work, and to a lesser degree, to contemporary Native American music.

You can hear a variety of sounds in Robert’s music. The disc opens with drums and chanting very close to Pow Wow song before morphing into a pop song. “The Dance” celebrates life in both its bitter and sweet moments, growing more powerful as it progresses. A few songs later, we encounter “Courtship Song,” which showcases Mirabal as flutist. It’s a stark and lovely piece that calls to mind R. Carlos Nakai and Coyote Oldman. “Hope” finds Mirabal kicking out his hardest rock sounds with a boogie riff that would do ZZ Top proud. That gives you some idea of the range of sounds that Robert is able to command. All of the songs are steeped in Native American tradition. That’s would all be well and good in an academic sort of way if Mirabal were not able to transcend to touch on the universal. Robert’s songs may be rooted in the Hopi communities of the Southwest, but his songs are universal expression of love, longing, desire and pride.

I am now very interested in see the documentary that this disc is based on. The program was designed as a theatrical piece and there are a few pieces where I’m sure the most dramatic performance is something we simply can’t see on disc. Mirabal is an accomplished dancer and actor after all.

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