Take four fine musicians, a terrific singer and a whole load of good taste, mix them together and record them live in concert. What you get is a breath of fresh air in bluegrass, with a twist. Lily of the West is a good band by any standard. And Lily Drumeva is a wonderful singer, a welcome new voice in bluegrass. The fact that the band comes from Bulgaria only makes Sail On The Wild, Wild Wind even more impressive.
Much of the material will be familiar to most bluegrass fans, but not so well-worn that there’s nothing new to be added. Some of the more conventional songs – Church Street Blues, Blue Moon of Kentucky, for example – gain a freshness that comes from the fact that, although they may be real familiar to us, they haven’t become cliches to a band from Bulgaria. As a result, they manage to project a feeling that is unexpectedly genuine. Lily’s soft, sweet voice gives the title cut a moody feel that sets the tone perfectly. The recording has a nice balance between old-time tunes like Blue-Eyed Suzie and Bill Cheatham, newer tunes like Orphan Girl and Blue Trail of Sorrow, and even non-traditional tunes like Vince Gill’s lovely Jenny Dreamed of Trains and the interesting Horo, a Bulgarian wedding medley.
Sail On The Wild, Wild Wind was recorded live, and the sound quality is excellent. There’s crowd noise where appropriate, but it’s never a distraction from the performance. And a fine performance it is – Lily’s vocals are justifiably the focal point, but Rayko Pepelanov and Rossen Hristov are superb pickers who know how to support the melody without overplaying. Tveso Vlaikov adds variety with some fine lead and harmony vocals while holding down the bass chores. Hristov’s dobro work is especially notable for the way it winds around Lily’s vocals on songs like the title cut and on Tears Roll Again.
This is definitely a recording worth adding to your collection. It’s a refreshing to hear a different take on something so familiar.