Border Crossing, In Spite of It All

 

 

BREXIT BLUES

Various Artists

Riverboat Records

 

This chronicle of poignant music from across Europe means to lament the vote favoring the U.K.’s exit from the EU (European Union). The Sunday Times says Riverboat Records “certainly deserves an award for quick-witted marketing,” but the bigger question is, Can music help to break down the very borders Brexit seeks to impose? Herein, perhaps, is one answer.

Polish trio Chlopcy Kontra Basia open the album with “Wieczerza” (translation: Supper), an infectious jazz bounce. Basia Derlak’s immaculate vocal knits folklore tales to arthouse concept without fuss as double bass and drums fuzz out the edges. Hungarian band Söndörgő offer up “Evo Scru,” a trembling tightrope walk through two Serbian melodies from the northern region of Vojvodina. Another Hungarian stalwart, the prodigious Bela Lakatos is heard on “Pal O Forro” hurtling full-speed with chanting vocals, foot-stomping and slapped percussion. Slip-sliding across the fretboard in to Serbia, we have husband and wife duo Faith I Branko on dramatic Balkan ode “Rose.” Branko leans heavily on his violin strings whilst Faith pumps the accordion. Another accordionist, Aidan Coffey, flies the Irish flag on the wistful air “An Pastin Fionn (The Fair-Haired Child).” The Greek duo of native Athenian Kristi Stassinipoulou (singer, lyricist, fiction writer) and Stathis Kalyviotis (her long-time collaborator composer, arranger, co-producer and multi-instrumentalist contributes) from their recent album NYN, the haunting “Winter Is Coming.” Given Stassinopoulou’s affection for primordial mythology, the song’s echoes of Donovan’s “Atlantis” may well be an homage.

‘Pal O Foro,’ Bela Lakato & The Gypsy Youth Project from The Rough Guide to Gypsy Music, and featured on Brexit Blues

“Erhetai Heimonas” is mercurial, a dose of Greek psychedelia complete with Mellotron tincture. Another Greek contribution comes from Rebetika rogue Dimitris Mistakidis on guitar cascade “Gkiouzel.” We hear perfectly formed klezmer from London-based band She’Koyokh. Violin, clarinet and guitar dance in perfect step whilst accordion takes up the bellows on their Moldavian dance “Hora De La Munte.”

‘Winter Is Coming,’ with its echoes of Donovan’s “Atlantis,” by Kristi Stassinopoulou & Stathis Kalyviotis, from their album NYN and included on Brexit Blues

John Renbourn with a live version of ‘Blues Run the Game.’ Brexit Blues features Renbourn and Wizz Jones performing the tune on their 2016 album Joint Control, ‘showcasing two of the U.K.’s most influential acoustic guitarists’

John Renbourn & Wizz Jones beautifully sum up the Brexit mood with their classic rendition of “Blues Run The Game.” This recording is taken from the duo’s 2016 album Joint Control recorded just before the passing of Renbourn: a gem in the archive showcasing two of the U.K.’s most influential acoustic guitarists.

“Polonäs Från Sexdrega” is a Swedish processional, almost dirge-like but with a recurring glint of hopefulness peeking the parapet. With members from Sweden, Norway and England, and based on both sides of the Swedish-Norwegian border, FatDog cross boundaries every time they meet, both literally and musically. Three are established folk musicians anchored in the musical traditions of Scandinavia and Britain. Three are accomplished jazz musicians with an ear both for the local and the cosmopolitan, the traditional and the experimental. FatDog’s instrument line-up usually raises a few eyebrows: concertina, trumpet, cittern, clarinet, hurdy-gurdy, saxophone and double bass. Having no percussionist, the rhythm section is provided by the buzz of the hurdy-gurdy, the chug of the concertina and, on occasion, the thrash of a cittern. The resulting rhythmic drive is unobtrusive but irresistible.

‘Evo Scru,’ ‘a trembling tightrope walk through two Serbian melodies from the northern region of Vojvodina,’ by the Hungarian band Söndörgő, from Brexit Blues

Polish trio Chlopcy Kontra Basia open Brexit Blues with the jazzy ‘Wieczerza’ (translation: The Supper), featuring Basia Derlak’s immaculate vocal knitting folklore tales to arthouse concept without fuss as double bass and drums fuzz out the edges. From the group’s OJ TAK! Album and featured on Brexit Blues

Boris Kovač’s saxophone ends the album with “Pannonian Blues.” The track takes its title from the East-Central European region of Pannonia that belonged in part to Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Croatia; an ancient province that cut across modern-day borders now lost to the sands of time. Pause for thought indeed.

A secret bonus track from Turkish-Kurdish London-based Olcay Bayir hypothetically extends the European Union even further, ready to welcome Turkey one day. Upbeat Albanian love song “Jarnana” illuminates Olcay’s velveteen soprano.

Courtesy World Music Network