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Bering Strait stays on course

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2005

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But somehow it sounds a lot easier than the first time when Bering Strait bounced between Sony, Arista Nashville, RCA, Gaylord, MCA and finally Universal South, which released both albums. In some cases, the band was a victim of the business climate with Arista Nash-ville folding into RCA. Personnel changes at record labels also resulted in different label execs having different musical interests.

"We were recording for five years bouncing from one label to another," says Ostrovsky. "Every new label wanted new songs on there. That kind of left a mark. We were a little bit ahead of the (first) record already by the time we released it (in 2003)...When we started recording the first album, it was 1997, and some of these tracks ended up on the record. The last cut that we made for the first record was made somewhere in 2002. In 1997, we didn't know better. We just came from Russia. It was a learning experience, cutting the first record."

Salnikova says, "We've grown during the recording of the album. By the time it was released, it was almost immediately dated."

"With the second record, most of us were working as session musicians, already working for other musicians as well as playing for the band as well as playing show after show after show," Ostrovsky says. "Technically, we were better musicians."

In describing the sound on "Pages," he says, "It's not like a lollipop, candy record. I think it's pretty record, and it's a different shade of our music."

The prettiness is evident from Salnikova's soaring ethereal delivery of the lead-off "Safe In My Lover's Arms."

The acoustic sound "came more from Carl," says Ostrovsky. "It wasn't a suggestion or anything like that. It just ended up being there. It wasn't talked about. That's what we ended up with creative forces in the studio."

The relationship with Jackson goes back a long way. Jackson recorded Bering Strait when they did their first demo in Nashville about 10 years ago. "It was not like he was a stranger to us," says Ostrovsky regarding picking Jackson to produce "Pages." Brent Maher produced the self-titled debut.

Universal South "had Carl in mind, and they thought it would be a great combination, and we tried working with him, and it ended up being great," says Ostrovsky.

"We definitely wanted to do maybe something new," he says, adding, "We just wanted to get in the right direction for the record, and we definitely (did) more with that."

Another unique aspect of Bering Strait's music is that each album contains one Russian song. On "Pages," it's Borzilova singing "Oy, Moroz-Moroz" ("Oh Frost," a popular Russian folk song about a man trying to get home on his horse to his jealous wife).

"We are Russian," says Salnikova. "It's nice to have some kind of flavor especially if it's true to life. You don't want to completely forget your roots."

While the Russian aspect adds uniqueness, besides the Russian songs, there is not any overtly Russian feel. They sing in unaccented English.

Not that many musicians get a chance to stretch out with instrumentals - Marty Stuart and Brad Paisley come to mind. But Bering Strait includes two, including Jerry Douglas' "From Ankara to Izmir," on which the Dobro master plays and produces.

"After playing the song for probably ever - since I started playing with the band - it's been more than 10 years, we've been doing it live all the time," says Ostrovsky. "It was like a dream to put it down. They (Universal South and management) thought it expressed our musicianship. I thought sure. When it finally came down to doing that, it is on the record, and we our proud of it."

Dobro with its steely sound isn't the type of musical instrument one would hear in Russia. Well, in fact, neither is pretty much anything Bering Strait does."

The musicians were all classically trained in their hometown of Obninsk, Russia, about 70 miles south of Moscow, a city of about 108,000 people.

A music teacher, Alexi Gvozdev brought the individuals together.

"I always wanted to play with a band," says Ostrovsky. "You had to actually be good to qualify from being his student to being in a band. I tried banjo - that was my first love. It didn't go further. I didn't have talents for banjo."

"He said, 'why don't you try Dobro?' We don't have it in the band, and we already have banjo.'...I just loved when I started playing it, and I loved it ever since."

"I kind of heard that there was a strange instrument that you play upside down. (Dobro actually is played while held horizontal to the ground and looks like a guitar). He showed me a few videotapes of people playing. 'Yeah that sounds really cool,'" Ostrovsky says he remembers thinking.

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