Sometimes one voice and one instrument are all that’s needed. Such is the case with this unassuming work by singer Eva Salina and accordionist Peter Stan, who team up in tribute to Vida Pavlovic, a Roma singer from Serbia who died at the not-so-advanced age of 59 in 2005 without achieving the kind of international success that devotees of Balkan music believe she deserved. I had to do a bit of sonic research to reach the conclusion that Pavlovic’s singing was indeed exceptional, and it was. She had the sort of voice that’s robust but haunting, sassy yet dignified. And her songs often addressed themes of hardship that a woman in Roma culture would endure, which earned her respect and acclaim.
Salina- who’s American, even though your ears might lead you to believe otherwise -sounds like she’s pouring her heart out in a smoky Balkan bar as the hour grows late. And that’s what’s so charming about Sudbina: it’s music that delivers emotion in abundance despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that only vocal and accordion power it. Those two components achieve a perfect symbiosis, with Salina’s voice moving easily from playful to poignant and Stan’s full mastery of the squeezebox enabling him to enhance every note and nuance while snaking his way through subtle variations on the melodies.
The production and mix, by Salina and Danny Blume respectively, is of course uncluttered. Beyond that, it captures all it can in terms of what makes the music so… well, real. At times the mechanism of the accordion is audible in providing a sort of rhythm accompaniment, and the feel of Salina reaching for each deep down moment is ever palpable. There’s only about 30 minutes of music here, but it’s a glorious half hour that you can revisit any time you like and be better off for it. - Tom Orr
A live performance at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in 2017