No, we're not talking about rhythm and blues or gospel music here. We're talking about, well, the animating principal of traditional music, particularly of Russian traditional music.
The accompanying booklet to this 1999 Delos release asks the question, What are the most obvious traits of Russian music, with the answer "emotionally intense, melodically rich, often dark in sound and melancholic in mood." That aptly sums up the short Russian works on this disc, with an emphasis on the melancholy.
Delos's sound, engineered by John Eargle, closely matches the climate of the music. It is warm, smooth, flattering in its soft ambiance, and entirely realistic. Eargle apparently recorded it for optimum playback in surround sound, as the disc is marked a "Virtual Reality Recording." But it is a tribute to the developing technique of multi-channel processing that no evidence of this system is noticeable during regular two-channel stereo listening. There is no shroud of enveloping fog veiling the music as one sometimes hears from this VR recording process. Indeed, the sonics, while not the ultimate in transparency, always appear quite natural.
Altogether, this is a pleasant if somewhat somber recording of mostly soulful, though not doleful, Russian favorites. The good sound is icing on the cake.
To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click below: