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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Druha Trava
Label: Compass Records
Length: 15 tracks - 46:20
Druha Trava is a Czech band that has been around for fifteen years. Initially a bluegrass band, they have expanded their reportoire to include country and rock influences as well as European folk music. The scope of their musical taste is evident in the list of songwriters whose tunes were selected for this recording - Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Tom Waits, Peter Rowan, John Fogerty plus a Kris Kristofferson/Billy Swan composition.
The disc leads off with the bouncy title track, a tune penned by the late Johnny Cash. Robert Krestan handles the lead vocals with a strong voice that occasionally displays a hint of an accent. The following cut is the first of two Bob Dylan songs. "Ring Them Bells" unfolds with a touch of melancholy with an arrangement highlighted by fine banjo work from Lubos Malina. The other Dylan cut, "Goin' to Acapuco," dates back to the Basement Tapes era.
One highlight of the disc is a rpid-fire version of the traditional tune "Sitting On Top of The World." Lubos Novotny shines on dobro and Country music legend Charlie McCoy adds harmonica, one of the six tracks he appears on. "Fall Farm" provides the listener with ample evidence of group's skill not only on their respective instruments but also in the ability to create a dynamic that keeps the focus on an ensemble sound rather than on a string of flashy solos. Novotny's coomposition, "Caurea," provides another opportunity for the band to show their instrumental prowess.
One track that misses the mark is Fogerty's "Bad Moon Rising," The vocal fails to convey that sense of anger and indignation that Fogerty was aiming for but Novotny almost rescues the song with another outstanding dobro solo.
The other band members are Emil Formanek on guitar and Petr Sury on acoustic and electric bass. All five members make vocal contributions. This is a solid effort from a talented aggregation. Their blend of varied influences and their highly skilled instrumental work create an unique package that will certainly appeal to bluegrass fans. Those listeners who favor an eclectic mix will also much to enjoy on this recording.
Mark Thompson 9/30/2006