Druhá Tráva

New Freedom Bell

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Veteran folkie Rowan joins Czech bluegrass band Druha Trava to form an interesting second grass fusion. Certainly guitarist/vocalist Rowan is the focal point for all the tunes, singing in English, but the Czech's, especially banjo virtuoso Lubos Malina and exceptional lap steel and dobro player Lubos Novotny, mesh well musically as if they had been playing together for decades. Electric bass guitarist Jiri Meisner, second guitarist/mandolinist Martin Ledvina are the other instrumentalists, with guest drummer and background vocals added on select tracks. Of the more traditional bluegrass cuts "Moonlight Midnight" is the most energetic with group vocals, "The Tree Of Leaf & Fire" showcasing Malina's brilliance, "Lost Melody" typically poppish and "Dust Bowl Children" heartily rambling yet haunting, with Rowan's cowboy affectated slight yodel vocals. Three songs are sung by Robert Kresfan; the slow rock beat informing "Kridla" (Wings) in his native language, in English for Guy Clark's tale of lost love "Dublin Blues," and with the group singing the title cut. Two Bob Dylan tunes are included, the ballad "Tryin' To Get To Heaven" and the bluesy bass setting up on a 9 1/2 minute romp "Cold Irons Bound," featuring some incredible polyphonic jamming amongst all the instrumentalists. The most compelling track is Van Morrison's "Burning Ground," going back and forth from 6/8 to 4/4 time in a very excitable framework, Rowan in a kinetic fever. This was a great idea, once again proving that American music traditions are all encompassing, and crop up in unlikely places around the world. Bela Fleck fans take note, Rowan and Druha Trava have upped the ante. Recommended.

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