Oskorri - Bandaband
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Elkar (www.elkarlanean.com)

The release of a new Oskorri CD is a big event in Basque music circles. There have been 32 previous albums over 35 years, but these include 10 of the Pub Ibiltaria live folksong fests, and three childrens albums. In fact, if you leave out the Pubs and one children's release, it's the first since 2003's stunning Desertore.

A 35th birthday celebration for Oskorri, Bandaband is basically a collection of older songs, recorded live with a small orchestra, the Band of Bilbao, bringing a new feel to the older songs, some first recorded in the 1970s. These include "Emazurtz" from their first album - a tribute to poet Gabriel Aresti; moving through their career with a mix of earlier and later tunes including three from Desertore, and two more from 1999's Ura.

Other than the instrumental accompaniment, and the live feel, most songs don't undergo radical surgery, with two exceptions. One is a medley of their children's songs, with two from the recent Doktor Doremi eta Benedizebra. The other is a medley of songs from their Vizcayatik Bizkaiara 2001 release.

All together, this CD constitutes a short history of Oskorri as well as putting old songs under a new light. Compared to the quarter century collection 25 Kantu Urte released 10 years ago, Bandaband is meagre and features no special guest luminaries from Eurofolk. It is, however, an updated anthology, as nearly half its material comes from this millennium.

Frontman and band founder Natxo de Felipe takes the lead on most songs as usual, with the gentle, expressive Anton Latxa taking the lead on "Pillow for a Deserter." Band members including violinist Xabier Zeberio, alboka player Josu Salbide, accordionist Iker Goenaga, and guitarist Bixente Martinez -- all have fine moments.

Oskorri's sound is best described as Basque-plus. There are traditional instruments such as the alboka and trikitixa (Basque accordion), but also nods to modern world music and folk. They remain ambassadors of the Basque sound. One of the bands earliest records, for instance, put to music texts by a 16th century Basque poet. With their various projects, all so inseparable from their community, they teach us what 'roots music' can really mean.

One or two new songs might have been a nice touch - I keep wondering what happened to the additional material for Desertore - and a two-CD set would certainly not have been out of the question, given the amount of material they could have included. Well, it does leave room for a massive 40-year anthology just around the corner in 2012. - David Cox

The band's web site: www.oskorri.com

CD available from cdRoots

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