What is it about acoustic guitars and hand percussion that drives the Flower Power generation's offspring to hate folk? (Oh yeah, the '60s...) But try as you might to push it away, folk pushes back, most effectively by border hopping. This week's folk culture du jour is Slavic, as monkeyed with by stateside groups such as gypsy punks Gogol Bordello and klezmer revivalists DeVotchKa, both of whom arrive on the wave cast by the new film Everything Is Illuminated, the soundtrack of which may do for Slavic music (or more likely, U.S. bands playing Slavic music) what O Brother, Where Art Thou? did for Gillian Welch.
The Minneapolis branch of the movement comes in the form of Murzik, a quintet of Bible school dropouts who prove that step one in playing Russian-sounding music is getting yourself a Russian-sounding name. The group's self-titled EP is an impressive debut that lives up to their name's promise; it's exactly what you might expect a band called Murzik to sound like. "Bluebird" is especially emblematic of the group's sound--five seconds of its down-tempo oompah beat and you get the drift and beg for more accordion. You get it with the two-step murder ballad "Ol' Big Jim," and a glockenspiel fix to boot with the breezy "Isle of Beauty." And while accordions and glocks are a pretty easy sell these days, Murzik is hardly stock footage: frontman Bryan Steenerson takes the Slavic folk tradition and makes it his own through a Morphine-cool vocal delivery and memorable lyric imagery. It's good enough to get folk-haters clapping despite themselves.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment