TAOS, N.M. - Relaxed, bright-eyed and a bit tousled from a long interlude of soul searching, Robert Mirabal emerges from the depths of his painted cave into the gentle radiance of a spring afternoon with his newest album, "Indians Indians" in hand.
This seventh release chronicles a different direction for Mirabal, offering listeners a unique and very personal glimpse into his world. Spoken stories about life in his northern New Mexico home dominate the work, baring his experience of historical injustice, love and family ties while fueling a social commentary previously draped in musical nuance and tense rhythms.
Mirabal describes this new direction as an evolution of sound and creation.
"It's not really rap and it's not really rock and roll," explained the artist, "I'm not into a genre." He said spoken pieces are included because fans wanted to hear more of the stories he shared with audiences during past performances.
Focusing on spoken stories seemed like an easy project at first. "I thought it would be simple. Now a year's gone by and finally we're finishing it. It's a pretty interesting process because you have four or five minutes of song to condense into one story and the story is much, much longer. You have to re-write, get the pulse down - get the movement down. It's challenged me. It's taken me to a different level as a musician, as an entertainer," he said.
"I think it's an expansion on the things he's always done and in his writing," said Karen Sheeks, assistant to Mirabal.
"It's a deep emotional journey and people will feel it. It's not really entertainment, in a simple sense - it's much more than that. It's going to impact people in a lot of different dimensions."
The recording and release of "Indians Indians" signals more than just a musical evolution. Mirabal said he is experiencing a personal healing and growth.
"That's why I cut my hair, 'cause I lived a life ? I don't know, these last couple of years have been so intense ? these (pieces on the album) are the hauntings of that. I feel like I'm trapped in many different levels of life - it's kind of like a schizophrenic - many different lives inside. One of the healing processes is bringing all of those lives and melding them so they can relate to each other, then the world doesn't seem so chaotic. That's how I see myself, all these different stories and all these different lives. If I can meld them and have a conversation with all of them, then things begin to come together."
Beyond healing, Mirabal also hopes this album is a bridge for his fans to learn more about the history of this country and his people. He said he wants listeners to know about the struggles his community endured to have Blue Lake, sacred to Taos people, returned. Or discover the role Governor Charles Bent played during the mid-1800s in the history of New Mexico and Taos Pueblo, both subjects of pieces on this album.
"I want them to listen and do research on what these stories are about like Uncle Theo. He wasn't shot by the enemy, he was shot by the sergeant, well, did that really happen?"
Uncle Theo is the subject of Theo's Dream, a story tackling prejudice and the Vietnam veteran's experience. Mirabal weaves soothing, watery sounds and images of spring planting with the menacing stiffness of a military march as a backdrop for the story. He compares rows of corn and chile growing amidst the elements like soldiers facing the unknown in war - ready for the harvest.
"We still haven't taken care of our veterans - why haven't we," he asks pointedly. "We're Americans but we still have to learn to respect one another. We have to figure out who we are and why we're here together in this country. It's a science project that the gods and the goddesses are doing, putting thousands of different nationalities into one country."
Mirabal's extreme sense of humor permeates the title cut, "Indians Indians," an upbeat, in-your-face stereotyped anecdote of Indian persona that turns into a take on the male-female conundrum twisting into a narration from the personals section with a guy's perspective of: White woman wants Indian man. The man asks the woman if she wants to see his horses.
"Yeah, yeah ? why not?" retorts Mirabal. "I mean, I wrote it more as a joke, the song is straight out. It's true. I've seen it, I've gone through it. And who else would say it except Mirabal? I'm not going to do another flute song ? a Chaco Canyon sage brush flute song ? and sweet whatever. I'll let somebody else do that. There's a romanticism that has been driven too hard. You go to another country and it's like, 'Ohh Indian, Indian!' It's a play on words and it's a play on things that I've seen and experienced."
Other pieces explore Mirabal's struggle to reconcile passion and compulsion. He co-wrote two songs with Walela femme fatale Laura Satterfield, "Dream of You," delving into the complexity of lost love and "Ruler of My Heart," an anthem to his wife, Dawn. Mirabal laughs at the adulation given politicians and rock stars. "Days Before Christmas," "Shine" and "Grandpa" move through light and shadow, amid relations and the bittersweet grief that is a Taos man's life, with a sensuousness of visual whispers that is strictly Mirabal.
Performances are planned to include images spanning the psychedelic '60s to Vietnam to the old black and white photos of the Pueblos. Mirabal said he is still gathering materials for a one-man show. "It's just me and a couple of characters. No band. It's a dramatized atmosphere like a play."
Eleven compositions plus a video mix of the title piece are included on the enhanced CD. A book of stories is also planned to be released with the CD in May.
"Indians Indians" invites the audience to look deep into Mirabal's eyes and see the bits and pieces of others' lives floating there. "I feel like I'm the little rabbit in Alice and Wonderland ? take a ride with me?"
Concert dates and more information about Mirabal and his work can be found at www.mirabal.com.