Cafe Antarsia Ensemble

Songs of the Table

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Cafe Antarsia Ensemble play a smooth mix of folk from Greece, the Balkans, and the United States on their debut album, Songs of the Table. Undeniably it draws from a diverse pool of forms and employs numerous unusual instruments, coming up with a sound that strongly echoes European gypsy music. It's the kind of record, however, that's more admirable than exciting. Maybe it's because the execution is a little tame, or because the songs -- most of them original compositions by Nikos Brisco and Ruth Margraff, and most of them vocals, with a few instrumentals -- are more OK than arresting in their vaguely dark moodiness. Certainly the vocals aren't great, whether sung by Margraff in her slight cabaret-ish delivery or the gruffer male singers, who sometimes almost sound like Bruce Springsteen trying to go ethnic (particularly on "Crows & Angels"). The ideas behind the eclecticism fueling this ensemble aren't bad, but could use some more zing.

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