(Indies, 2006)

Chances are, Slovak folk music does not interest you. Druzina could change your mind.

Druzina sounds Celtic on many songs, except for the Slovakian lyrics. They use guitars, fiddles, pipes and hand drums that sound like a bodhran. What's more, they are like many bands seen at various Celtic festivals: they are young players who modernize their music.

Druzina does not use electric instruments besides bass guitar and occasional electric guitar (and, I think, an amplified Jew's harp.) And all the 15 tracks on Tragare are at least based on traditional folk songs. But they have a smooth pop sound, and the two female vocalists often harmonize or trade lead vocals on beautiful melodies. They also use a trendy modern technique, where four of the tracks are snatches of songs that are only 30 or so seconds long.

Vinx provides state-of-the-art production. The American Vinx guests on percussion and on "Kukuricka" with his distinctive form of mouth percussion.

Not everything sounds Celtic. "Funky Borovicka," with its flute and hand percussion, seems Native American. Sometimes the violins play melodies that are more East European, with a Gypsy-like feel. At other times the interplay of the musicians is a bit like jazz.

There is a great bonus video at the end. It shows Druzina just as you might picture them, two vivacious women singing in folk costumes and four musicians having a good time playing outdoors, surrounded by dancers, and everyone looking as if they are members of a caravan of traveling players.

by Dave Howell
31 March 2007

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