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Various Artists
Alus Dziesmas
UPE, Latvia (

cd cover Here's a disc that will quench your thirst. No kidding. It's a collection of Latvian beer drinking songs. In fact, that's exactly what Alus Dziesmas means in Latvian, beer songs. And as the name implies, it's a frothy listen. Of course, the cover photo sort of gives this away. Four guys with instruments, accordions and mandolin, are sitting around a table with large mugs and wooden kegs. They look giddy. One fellow is past giddy, he's simply passed out.

But you can't judge a beer by its label. And quite frankly, this is a pretty listenable disc from the Latvian Folk Music Collection which, as the name implies, specializes in traditional Latvian music. There"s plenty of enthusiasm in every song, although the theme is essentially the same from tune to tune. With titles such as "At the Beer Table," "Wherever There"s Beer," "That"s Where Drinking is Fine," "Here Comes the Beer Can," "I Brewed Beer," "Listen Beer, Let Me In," and "Oh My G-d, This Beer is Sweet," you get the idea these fellows have a one-track mind.

In case you thought this was a joke, the liner notes make clear that Latvian folk songs always "tell everything about beer." This explains why there are songs about how the ingredients are grown, how it is brewed, and "what happens to those who drink too much." Beer, as the notes continue, is so important because it was part of the ritual meal at celebrations for centuries. So despite the environment, the playing is tight. The singing is enthusiastic. The songs are fairly catchy. And while I don't speak Latvian, it doesn't seem readily apparent that anyone is slurring their lyrics. There are, however, plenty of grunts and shouts.

Perhaps, the most amusing song, though, is "I'm a Hearty Drinker," about a woman who loves beer so much that she drinks away her brother's beautiful black horse. "Whoever is planning to wed her should build a brewery first so she would be able to start each day by going there - to open the door, to hang around, to tease guys." Bitter aftertaste, anyone? In short, Beer Songs is the one CD to play when you're playing only one. - Ed Silverman

CD available at cdRoots

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