David Royko Psy.D

david@davidroyko.com

Dirty Linen
CD Review
April 1995

By David Royko

 

Jiri Plocek & Teagrass
Folk Music Face

FT/Monitor 010125 2331 (1993)

   If a Czech equivalent of Strength In Numbers is ever assembled, Jiri Plocek will be in the "Sam Bush" slot. Plocek is part of the Czech Republic's bluegrass/new acoustic elite, having logged time with that nation's finest players, including the sensational band, Poutnici.

   What he has attempted with Teagrass is a fusion of the ethnic music of his region, especially gypsy and Moravian styles, with bluegrass and new acoustic music. The material, instrumentation and arrangements give the music a strong Eastern European aroma, while his mandolin soloing stirs the various American "grasses" into the stew. The results are always interesting, and frequently intoxicating.

   The band includes Natalie Velsmidova on cello and vocals, Petr Panek on acoustic bass and cymballo, Petr Sury on acoustic bass and guitar, and Martin Hrbac on violin. The exotic sound of the cymballo gives the music a plump, resonant aura, as well as its haunting, timeless mood. Much of the music is cast in melancholy colors, especially when Velsmidova sings her mournful melodies in their native tongue. Her voice is the one aspect of this disc that might require some adjustment for western ears. It is a pretty, highly expressive instrument that she uses without employing much vibrato, except on the ends of longer phrases. This occasionally creates the erroneous impression that she is singing slightly flat. She is also an able cellist, who solos effectively, though most of her time is spent adding her rich tones to the ensemble sound.

   Hrbac has a solid, smooth technique, but can add a pinch of grit to his fiddling when needed, while the two Petrs stay more in the background, stoking the rhythmic engine of the band with aplomb. However, it is Plocek who is the true driving force of this group, whether he is playing backup, or fitting thoughtful, modern mandolin solos into textures that are at once both archaic and contemporary.

---David Royko (Chicago, IL)---

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See also:

Jiri Plocek's Teagrass, concert preview & review (Chicago Tribune 1996), & recordings

Svata Kotas - Late at Night (w/ Jiri Plocek), CD review (Chicago Tribune 6-16-94)