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cd cover One moment, a Viennese ball, the next a New Acoustic jam, mostly, though, a dance through the sunlit fields and bandstands of Denmark. Zar is a "young band," with all the members in their twenties and they play acoustic dance music from all over Denmark. Their first album, Strengeleg, begins with chords you might hear in indie rock, but for the most part Zar playfully interprets the dances with many touches of jazz, and a bit of classical.

Conceived in 1996 when the players were even younger, Zar consists of Rasmus Zeeburg on guitar, Christopher Davis Maack on fiddle and Steffan Søgaard Sørenson, slow daemon of the modern, on bass. Since the album, they've added a female vocalist, Sinne Lahm Lauritsen, who enriched the band with light, measured vocals at Folk Alliance in February. Strengeleg, though, is all-instrumental. At times, Sørenson drops the bass (ouch!) and picks up an extra fiddle, as in the "To-Trutur fra Himmerland" pair dance, for a pretty and spirited duet. There are waltzes (including an original, "Vals til Mor"), polkas and a schottische, as well as a hopsa, a quadrille, and a slow, contemplative bridal dance, many with a contemporary flair. Sometimes the band really boogies as in "Per Huggers Totur" or makes little musical jokes, as in the short polka "Manden Og Konen/Husband and Wife" from Jutland.

With all the light dance music, Strengeleg is essentially a festival of grace and optimism. There is really only one sad moment, a depressing bass solo dirge called "The Greatest Grief." Some listeners will find that there is not enough emotional depth in the way the tunes are played, but others will find the depth in their grace and optimism. It will be interesting to see what happens as the band members grow in experience. In the meantime, the musicians are good and the dances are fun! - Judith Gennett

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