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May 1998

Various Artists
Fire in the Mountains: Polish Mountain Fiddle Music, Vol. 1 and 2
Yazoo

Yazoo is one of the more distinctive labels tapping into the world music world, veering to the left and the antique. Both of those characteristics account for the rustic, ample charm of Fire in the Mountains: Polish Mountain Fiddle Music, Vol. 1 and 2 (Yazoo 7012 and 7013; 70:44 and 71:50). Here we have recordings from the 1920s, from the Tatra mountain region of Southern Poland, of music from the Gorale (highlander) people that doesn't quite fit in with any existing musical tradition. For these impoverished, remote mountain people, as with island music, isolation helped nurture cultural individuality. Not quite Eastern European folk, not quite Germanic, fiddle-based bands work up a hypnotic lather of sound, sometimes in odd meters and taking strange turns of key. On tracks by the Karl Stoch Band, vocalist Stefan Jarosz and fiddler Jan Kryzsiak and others, vocal parts come and go, in irregular patches. But it is the collective pulse-twin fiddles, with accordion and bass driving home chunky chordal blocks-that grabs the ear and alerts us to something distant, something rough and beautiful.

Originally published in May 1998
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