Words by Simon Broughton
The Warsaw Village Band are one of the most interesting folk groups in Europe: they have always stayed true to their idea of drawing on the tradition but in a distinctly non-traditional way. Their first really impressive album was Uprooting (2004), which won them a BBC Award for World Music. This new album, their fifth, is a tour de force. The opening track is a brilliant collaboration with Swedish band Hedningarna, which means nyckelharpas, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy and noisy percussion are added to the fiddles and cimbalom of the Warsaw Village Band. It’s wild, infectious stuff. A shame the English titles sound so naff.
‘Grajo Gracyki’ (Musicians Are A-Playin), which follows, also features Hedningarna, but is dominated by the glorious female vocals of the WVB, courtesy of Magdalena Sobczak, Sylwia Swiatkowska and Ewa Walecka. The other guest on the album is Native American singer Sandy Scofield, who lends vocals and shaman’s drum to ‘Bendzie Wojna’ (War is Coming), with chanted vocals, an athletic bass line and scary fiddle playing. Some of the quieter moments, like the intro to ‘Hola Byski Hola’ (Whoa, Bullocks, Whoa), which features soft cimbalom and ethereal string harmonics, create a whole new sound world for traditional music, before setting off into a typical WVB gallop with scraping fiddles and punchy percussion. Over the years, WVB have been through several personnel changes, but this line-up is as strong as they’ve ever been.