Alboka - Lau Anaiak
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Lau Anaiak
Elkar (

cd cover The duo Alboka is accordionist Joxan Goikoetxea with wind multi-instrumentalist Alan Griffin, both highly regarded in Euskal Herria and elsewhere as interpreters of the Basque tradition. That musical tradition is the starting point, but not necessarily the end point, for this very professional recording, their fourth.

Goikoetxea can do it all on the squeeze-box. I love the bright, happy rhythms of the Basque accordion and if I have any criticism of this recording, it could use more of that compelling, get-up-and-dance quality that we see on the La-Bottinesque reel "Tilosetako txistua," where the accordion and mandolin work together so nicely. He's also great at setting a compelling mood. "Euntegietan" is a beautiful instrumental that illustrates this.

Irishman Griffin shows himself to be a master of many wind instruments. A highlight is the gravely voice of Benito Lertxundi teamed with Griffin's flute on "Hariztarren balada," the tale of the Oaks who would not obey the king and so had to be destroyed (a parable for the Basque situation since the oak of Gernika is a national symbol). In "Sakabiren biribilketa" Griffin picks up the clarinet to create a Basque­Klezmer fusion sound, while the title track, among others, shows his skill on the alboka.

There are melancholy moments, indeed, but also moments of typical Basque humor. In "Gizonek eztau bear" the singer encourages the listener to marry an older woman he can satisfy, rather than a younger one.

The disc closes on a sad note, with a song ("I surely fired them" is the English translation) about two brothers who fought on opposite sides in Spain's civil war without realizing it. The title refers to the bullets fired by one brother that caused the other to lose his leg.

All lyrics are in Euskara, with ample explanations and translations of the songs. Lau Anaiak is a worthy addition to the impressive canon of contemporary Basque-language folk. - David Cox

CD available from cdRoots

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