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Druha Trava

Good Morning, Friend – 2006 (Compass)

Reviewed by Dave Bagdade

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CDs by Druha Trava

Druha Trava, one of the leading bands to emerge from the vibrant Czech Republic bluegrass scene, celebrates its 15th year with the release of its 8th album. Once one gets past the twin incongruities of a standard like "Sitting On Top Of The World" sung with Czech accents and bluegrass versions of "Bad Moon Rising," two Mark Knopfler tunes and a Tom Waits number, there is quite a bit of good music here.

The band is built around the lead vocals of mandolinist Robert Krestan and banjoist Lubos Malina, although Dobroist Lubos Novotni and and guitarist Emil Formánek are fine pickers as well. Krestan's gravelly voice is not varied in his inflections, but he is an effective singer who is at his best on world-weary tunes. The group's harmonies are solid, although occasionally supplemented by guest vocalists.

The choice of material is a bit scattered, ranging from two obscure Dylan songs ("Ring Them Bells," "Going To Acapulco") to Celtic (Peter Rowan's "Holy Wells of Ireland" joined with Malina's "Ossian") to a pair of excellent instrumentals, "Fall Farm" and "Caurea," written by Malina and Novotni respectively. The latter in particular sounds like a long-lost New Grass Revival track and features hot picking from Novotni, Malina, Formánek and bassist Petr Sury. Definitely worth checking out.