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CD Review: Arvel Bird – Animal Totems 2
By Francesco Emmanuel - 10/18/2006 - 12:37 PM EDT

Artist: Arvel Bird
Album: Animal Totems 2
CD Review: So, I opened this CD and on the cover is a picture of a number of animals, including an elephant, humming bird, frog, a deer and a goose, so immediately my curiosity was piqued. The album is by violin master Arvel Bird and is entitled ‘Animal Totems 2’ – a follow-up to his best selling CD, ‘Animal Totems’. It is Bird’s 10th release on Singing Wolf Records.

The album was conceived in honor of his Native American and Celtic ancestries, the Creator’s animals, and the spiritual connection and relationship many indigenous cultures have with these creatures. It is categorized as a southwest flavored, jazz-infused album, but there is a great pop sensibility to this record. It draws the listener into its world instantly. The songs fuse classical techniques with jazz and Celtic styles.

There’re songs like ‘Badger Boogie’ which is a rather light-hearted playful number, ‘Great Blue Heron’ has a lovely flute line, followed by spiraling violin runs, grooving in a jazzy/pop-rock vein. ‘Dragonfly’ also has a beautiful flute section, accompanied with percussion accenting certain key phrases, building momentum until the flute holds out on its own. Arvel plays both violin and native flutes on the album. ‘Elephants in the midst’ has such great melody hooks for both verse and chorus, but the end is a continuous violin arpeggio of notes at lightning speed, it’s really something.

Songs like ‘Grand Ole Osprey’ have a cinematic/theatrical feel to it with its dramatic piano and flute parts. ‘Spooky Spider’ is also another great track with harmonizing violin notes. Other song titles include ‘Coyote Caper’, ‘Deer Tracks’, ‘Dolphin Dances’ just to name a few.

The violin and flute carry the main melody lines on all songs, at times it’s rather dramatic, elevating the music to another plane of existence; other times it’s very soothing. Other accompanying instruments include acoustic and electric guitar, electric bass and cello, piano, keys and various strings, drums and percussion.

The blend of the instruments here is flawless; the guitar tone is just perfect – warm, with just the right amount of distortion. Arvel also carries the credit of arranging and producing the album. I really appreciated the dynamics in the songs themselves.

Now, just some background information. Arvel studied classical music for 11 years and attended ASU in Tempe, Arizona on a music scholarship later transferring to the University of Illinois-Champaign/Urbana to study with Hungarian master, Paul Roland. Arvel is a four-time Indiana State Fiddle Champion, former fiddle champion at the Milwaukee Indian Summer Festival and is a multiple award nominee for three CDs at the Native American Music Awards and Indian Summer Music Awards.

Arvel has also toured with Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Louise Mandrell and others. His music can be found at independent retailers as well as and

For any listeners into violin-based music, I humbly suggest adding this album to your instrumental collection, and reconnect with nature and the animals around you.

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