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Taarka is fronted by a husband/wife duo currently based in Colorado. David and Enion Pelta-Tilla cover the mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and vocals between them, and are joined on this wide-ranging new acoustic project by over a dozen players, including Darol Anger, Tyler Grant, and Ross Martin on cameo appearances.

The title Adventures In Vagabondia is probably as apt a description of this CD as any. Maybe it’s a concept album for an American gypsy caravan? The 15 selections are mostly original compositions with a handful of exceptions, most notably the inclusion of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Way I Feel.” There is a string/swing vibe to songs such as “Go To The Edge” and a Renaissance rambler theme to the opening track “Wandering.” There’s plenty of hot picking and bowing, with the influences of Celtic (“Lay Low Jig”) and World music (“Nubus Nimbus’) predominating over the fainter touches of bluegrass and old-time (“Up On The Mountain.”) The lyrics are abstract and new-age, and the song settings can veer off from rustic to electric at a moment’s notice.

The net result is polished and precise and relentlessly eclectic. And in trying to determine why I’m not warming to the CD, there may be a clue in the album’s final track. Almost a bonus track, it’s a torch song of sorts written by bassist Troy Robey, featuring just Enion Pelta-Tiller’s voice and Robey’s fine bass work. The arrangement is spare, the singing and lyrics intimate and vulnerable, and it reveals a heart that’s harder to find elsewhere on this recording. It could be that Taarka is influenced by groups such as The Decemberists, with lyrics that are more high and flighty rather than gutsy and rootsy. However, listeners can join the caravan guaranteed of fine picking and bowing and a stylistic trip around the unknown. (www.taarka.com)HK

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