Cascade Folk Trio - Old Street
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Cascade Folk Trio
Old Street
Bandaz Records (

cd cover You really have to stretch your ears to hear the folk in Cascade Folk Trio's sound. While the melodies reach back through Armenian history and the arrangements make liberal use of the duduk, zurna, dhol, and other folk instruments, the sound is squarely in the twenty-first century. A pop sensibility rules the day here, complete with keyboards, drums, and programming. Vocalist Arman Aghajanyan is quoted as saying, "We always start with the melody line. The melody must be Armenian." It's true that the melodies, even on the newly-composed songs, have the highly-ornamented, narrow-ranged flow of Armenian folk music.
Only two of the songs on this release are traditional in origin. The rest are penned by Aghajanyan and co-vocalist Ohanna Mighyan. The two, along with arranger Armen Papkiyan, use all the weapons at their disposal to bring out the heart of each of these songs. With almost two dozen musicians contributing their talents, Old Street has elements of jazz, pop, and soul. It's a sweeping sound that skimps on nothing. Aghajanyan and Mighyan are talented vocalists who straddle the folk/pop chasm with a capable flair. If the trio is to be faulted for anything, it's veering a little too close to slickness. The synthesized horns and overdubbed vocals can get overwhelming in their show-biz-y-ness. But just when your ears can't take any more, they come up with a lovely ballad like "Pity, My Road" or the jazzy, sultry "Burly Boy," both of which sport some rich piano work by Artashes Kartalyan. Two of the strongest tracks bookend the disc. The spirited traditional song "Gentle Boy, Graceful Girl" opens things up with lots of wonderful buzzy folk instruments. The closing track is "Homeland," a rousing paean to Armenia, a fitting ending to a confident, vigorous work. - Peggy Latkovich

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