By David Royko
Peter Ostroushko with Dean Magraw
Red House RHR CD-40 (1992)
Peter Ostroushko's latest consists of ten well rehearsed duet performances (eight instrumentals) with guitarist and frequent collaborator Dean Magraw. Ostroushko penned most of these selections, with a few traditional numbers thrown in. Overall, this is a very satisfying release, sporting tight arrangements and imaginative original compositions.
Fans of "Prairie Home Companion" (a fine show except for Garrison Keillor) will recognize Ostroushko's fiddling, with its rich blend of overtones and secure technique, and his gurgling mandolin sound. Dean Magraw, impressive on previous recordings with Ostroushko, gets ample opportunity to display his muscular guitar manner as he adapts to the wide range of styles presented on this hour long disc.
Three tracks written by Ostroushko are particularly impressive, beginning with the lead off tune, The Whalebone Feathers." On this exciting tour de force, the pair build tension as they maneuver around the tricky curves of this fiddle/guitar piece. "Bukavina," composed to capture the spirit of this Carpathian Mountains area, finds Ostroushko, on mandolin, working through an interesting melody, which manages to conjure up a brooding atmosphere at a fast tempo. Returning to guitar/fiddle, the CD ends with a medley of three tunes entitled "The Edinburgh Jigs." The first achieves a slow, reflective beauty, while the third builds to a driving climax, ending the disc as impressively as it began.
Of the two vocals (both by Ostroushko), "The Nightingale Medley" is a standout, similar in its melancholic mood and voice quality to songs written and performed by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. Ostroushko's mandolin soloing on this song is exquisite.
While there are a few shortcomings on this album ("The Prairie Suite" is too long, "Waltz for Hana" a bit dull), these two musicians play very well together, and this CD is urgently recommended.
---David Royko [Chicago, IL]---