Jony Lliev

Ma Maren Ma

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Jony Iliev can sing, there's no doubt of that. When he really lets go, as on tracks like "Ma Rov," he's in the very best tradition of gypsy singers. However, on Ma Maren Ma, he doesn't let go often enough. There's a sense of him being tightly wound, but never actually letting go. And he's not really helped by the band. There's no way of knowing what they're like live, but in the studio there's simply too much politeness and restraint, which make tracks like "17:50" and "Ma Maren Ma Instrumental" less than satisfactory. There's nothing wrong with the playing, per se; it simply never catches fire. But that's true of the whole disc. What could be incendiary never generates more than the occasional spark, although you keep waiting for it to take off -- and you sense it wants to. Maybe next time will be better. The potential is there, but for now it's definitely unfulfilled.

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