Mostar Sevdah Reunion and Ljiljana Buttler
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cd cover Mostar Sevdah Reunion
A Secret Gate
Mostar Sevdah Reunion and Ljiljana Buttler
The Legends of Life
Both titles: Trade Root Music (

Mostar Sevdah Reunion was born in 1993 in the flames of the Bosnian conflict. The sextet rose phoenix-like out of that conflagration to become one of Bosnia and Herzegovina's most popular bands. With fine musicianship and well-crafted arrangements, they put a subtly modern blush on old Yugoslavian and Roma songs.

A Secret Gate was originally released in 2003, but this re-release makes it available in North America for the first time. The songs here are smooth and danceable, with a few moody ballads thrown in for variety. There’s a little country/western brushed snare in the background of "Oj Djevojko Pod Brdom (Hey Girl)." "Okreni Se Niz Djul Bašću (Turn Around in the Rose Garden)" is a love song of such longing, it makes you ache to listen to it. Mustafa Šantić’s mournful clarinet caresses the spaces between the words. Mišo Petrović on guitar and Nedjo Kovačević on violin add some snazzy gypsy jazz to "Nema Ljepše Cure Od Malene Djule (There is No Prettier Girl than Little Djula)."

"Andro Verka"
w /Naat Veliov on trumpet
The Legends of Life is a more pensive work with a prevalence of jazz ballads. It features the deep, world-wise voice of Ljiljana Buttler, the "Mother of Gypsy Soul." Buttler brings to mind the voice of Cesaria Evora, with its low range and casual phrasing. She does a slow, sultry take on the traditional favorite "Mala Garava (Dark-Skin Lass)." "Plačem Već Tri Dana (Three Days Now I Have Been Weeping)" is a dark number with a bluesy guitar solo by Petrović. This is a more brooding side of MSR, and they prove to be sensitive accompanists to the soulful Buttler. Both releases show a band that is ready to be embraced by a larger audience. - Peggy Latkovich

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