Vilo Mesko

Slovakia: Ja Son z Podiliny

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This is unique and interesting music, released by the national recording label Opus in the days when Slovakia and the Czech Republic were combined as Czechoslovakia. While some of the eastern bloc-era countries suppressed traditional art forms, the government in Prague seemed to encourage the heritage, at least to the extent of releasing well-recorded collections of material. Bandleader Mesko hails from Bratislava and seems to be a talented gent. Not only does he wail on the fiddle and vocalize as the frontman with this group, he also performs several numbers solo on accordion and a flute and multi-tracks himself on another number as well. The ensemble is all strings: two violins, viola, and cello, to be exact. It is not at all chamber music, having more in common with American old-time music. Structurally it is also similar to some kinds of Spanish and Portugese folk music. The strings provide simple chordal backgrounds for the vocalizing, and then become more complex in instrumental sections. Mesko's singing style is pleasant and natural, yet the most interesting thing musically is the blend of the bowed stringed instruments, sometimes producing chords that shake inside one's belly.

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