Musicautor MK Nr.

Bulgarian songstress Lilly Drumeva and her band Lilly of the West are probably familiar to many bluegrass fans, having performed widely across Europe, toured several times in the U.S., making appearances at IBMA’s World Of Bluegrass and a number of bluegrass festivals. Over the course of more than ten years of performing and recording, Lilly and her band have established themselves as skilled and imaginative musicians, led by Lilly’s sensitive and expressive vocals.

On Swings & Heartaches, her 10th and newest recording, Lilly takes the band out of the strict confines of bluegrass and into a broader range of material. This is fitting and not really surprising. Many European bands are refreshingly free of the genre constraints that U.S. bands tend to be bound by, and audience tastes throughout Europe tend to be less pedantic about the categorization of music in general.

The first half of the recording evokes a retro, ’40s-era feeling of big-band swing, translated to acoustic instruments consisting primarily of mandolin, guitar, bass, and resonator guitar. Some of the uptempo songs do seem to feel a bit rushed in comparison to their older originals, but from “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” to the classic “Lovesick Blues,” they still swing along nicely.

The second half of the recording shifts gears from swing to ballads and it is here that Lilly’s gorgeous voice particularly shines. The heartfelt duets “If I Were A Carpenter” and “Crying In The Rain,” her acoustic interpretations of two Bulgarian folk songs (“Brala Moma Ruzha Cvete” and “Malka Moma Si Se Bogu Moli”), and, finally, the lovely “Valentine Moon” really showcase what a compelling vocalist she is, and how skilled the band is at complementing her lead. These alone make the CD worth owning.  AWIII

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