VINTAGE BALKAN BEATS
Kitsos Harisiadis, Mita Stoicheva, Rosa Eskanazi, Markos Vamvakaris, Vulkana Stoyanova, George Katsaros, The Five Gliniotes, A. Kostis, Vassilis Tsitsanis, Udi Hrant, Annitsa Nikolaou and more...
What we have here is the result of a truly inspired idea, a sampler CD that promotes a part of the JSP catalogue that has emerged under the radar over recent years, surely deserving of a wider audience and appreciation.
Anyone who has been with Red Lick for any period of time will undoubtedly be fully aware of the magnificent job that JSP has done over many years in tracking down and re-presenting a whole library of classic and rare blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, jazz, old-timey country and other traditional forms of American music.
While offering no let-up in their continued commitment to the roots of American popular music, over recent years the restless souls at JSP have also turned their attention towards eastern and southern Europe (and even beyond) and collected, re-mastered and presented a tremendous series of traditional roots and folk music from Greece, Turkey, the Ukraine, Bulgaria and elsewhere.
And, as represented in this 20 track sampler of the releases to date, the results are spectacular, featuring a diverse array of music recorded between the 1920s and 1950s. From virtuoso guitar and bouzouki interplay between the finest Rembetika musicians of Greece, to instrumental mastery of lesser-known instruments and heart-breaking vocals from across southern and eastern Europe, the emotional impact of which is not lessened a jot by the fact that I can't make out a word of the lyrics.
Every one of the tracks included here is a beguiling little gem and I've no doubt that once heard, you will want to immerse yourself fully in more from the JSP library, as currently featured on eight box sets of Rembetika and a set each of rare Bulgarian material, Turkish traditional music, Ukranian and Lemko string bands, pre-war Italian migrants to the USA and more. If so, see the JSP box set lists on page 26 of the catalogue. Even if you don't have the time, money or inclination to get too deeply into this under-appreciated resource, this compilation alone is sufficiently strong to find its place as a real favourite in your CD collection.
And if you need any further endorsement from The Lickery of this superb CD, it is worth noting that it was compiled and annotated by a certain Ken Smith, a name familiar to many as founder and former-owner of Red Lick.
Review Date: April 2014