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Reviews: Blowzabella, Dance; Ahilea, Café Svetlana

Serious musicians need not always be so serious. The two groups featured today mix expert chops with a fun and adventurous genre-challenging spirit.

Blowzabella's latest is sure to get you moving. (Click to visit the band's website.)

Blowzabella
Dance
[Blowzabella2 (2010)]

Dissolved due to touring pressures since 1990 save for the occasional concert, Blowzabella came together in 2003 for a reunion. Emboldened by their success and bolstered by new material, they stayed together and continued touring. In 2007, Blowzabella released their first album in over a decade and followed it up this year with the appropriately-titled Dance. A good thing for fans, too, because Dance is such a fun time, it’s hard to believe the band was on a hiatus for so long. Blowzabella’s latest contribution to the updated sounds of traditional Irish and English dance music reaffirms the band’s decision to re-form and record anew.

First of all, the band sounds flat-out rockin’. The powerful sounds of the hurdy-gurdy and the bagpipes might have a tendency to overwhelm the rest of the instrumentation on Dance, but that isn’t necessarily unfortunate. The band is made up of solid musicians who create layered, complex melodies and beats that showcase their chosen focus. Sonically, the core of the band are the related drone instruments, and it shows in such interesting and stimulating tracks as “Man in the Brown Hat/Spring Dance.” The songs are simple and crisp, and they avoid over-production, showcasing the musical talents at hand into a cohesive unit.

There’s a little something for everyone on this album. There are electrifying jigs like “Horizonto” and beautifully deliberate waltzes in the form of “The Bay Tree/Molinara.” “Blowzabella” is a haunting tune that forces listeners to move their feet. One can see why the band took their name from this centuries-old song (though one has to also wonder why it took them nearly two decades to record their version). In fact, it’s difficult to imagine hearing this tune in a dance hall and being a wallflower.

The infectious melodies that permeate all the songs on this album forbid remaining still. Even the slower tracks, like the gorgeous mazurka “The Rose of Raby,” are imbued with a kind of subtle sensuality designed for graceful couples’ dances and timed, poised steps. From beginning to end, Dance is about motion and expression through song.

—Michael Tager (Baltimore, MD)

Okay, the cover doesn't look that silly. Watch the video instead.

Ahilea
Café Svetlana
[Essay AY 020CD (2009)]

Café Svetlana is a project put together by Macedonian producer and DJ Ahilea that draws from many sources: the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia, Serbia, and Croatia. Its deceptively simple production mixes powerful bass, electronic and real drums, and percussion with clarinet, accordion, fiddle, or bouzouki, carrying catchy melody lines that you can’t get out of your head, while the lyrics (sung in fractured English) walk that fine line between zany and absurd. The resulting album sounds like a soundtrack to a long lost Marx Brothers movie filmed in the Balkans—a fun mix of beats, folk tunes, and downright silliness.

—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)

© 2010 DriftwoodMagazine.com, All rights reserved

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