Tomas Kocko & Orchestr,
(Indies, 2006)

Czech artist Tomas Kocko fills the gap between folk and pop quite nicely on his fifth CD. Poplor adds modern recording to the liveliness of folk. Each of the nine tracks is carefully layered. The sound is much smoother than you would probably hear in a live performance, with some of the qualities of electronica. This highlights the beautiful melodies.

But this is not synthesized new age music. Nearly all of the instruments are traditional, with the bass and drums kicked up a bit to give spice to the beat. Dulcimer, guitar and violin predominate, but there are also horns, electric and standup bass, cello and even didgeridoo.

The vocals are soulful, with the words translated into English on the colorful CD sleeve. The moods vary from the rocking opener "Ceska" to meditative numbers like "Pohanska." The music is not only Czech; there are also Russian, Polish, Serbian and Moravian sources. The last, "Beskyd-Ska," has a bouncy ska beat.

Kocko updates Slavonic world music wonderfully, preserving its traditional glory while introducing it to new audiences.

by Dave Howell
14 April 2007