Lilly of the West, led by the indomitable Lilly Drumeva, has been at the forefront of European bluegrass for close on 25 years. Hailing from Bulgaria, Lilly has taken her passion for bluegrass and traditional country music around the world. With more than a dozen albums to their credit,
Lilly and her fellow musicians—Yasen Vasilev (lead, rhythm guitar), Michail Shiskov (Dobro, lead guitar, chops) and Svoboda Bozduganova (upright bass)—have found their own sound in the seams between country, bluegrass and folk. For this latest album of stunningly original treatments of classic country, pop and blues classics, they are joined by Pepa Malina (fiddle) and Michal Barok (mandolin).
Rooted in bluegrass and country music, the ten-track set takes on plenty of genres from ragtime to blues to swing to jazz. Lilly is an excellent singer and can easily switch back and forth from a grassier style to a softer, more country or folk-influenced sound, even slipping in some jazz and pop inflections along the way. Though it all runs a wide gamut, to put it simply, it all sounds good. Lilly and her band’s love for what they do shines through, resulting in a winner of an album.
Lilly demonstrates her natural country phrasing with a stirring rendition of Seven Lonely Days. Originally a pop hit for Georgia Gibbs and a country hit for Bonnie Lou, both in 1953, the song has been well-covered since, most notably by Patsy Cline and Jean Shepard. Lilly’s rendition, with a more rootsy accompaniment of twangy acoustic guitars and Dobro, is very impressive. Jimmie Rodgers’ timeless Miss the Mississippi And You, a sultry tribute to the South, displays the warm suppleness of her voice. The song meanders along slowly in leisurely measure, her sad-tinged vocal accompanied by haunting fiddle and evocative Dobro before blossoming into spirited yodeling. Lilly turns into a jazz diva for a revival of the classic After You’ve Gone. The tune opens slowly before moving into a toe-tapping rhythm that allows every instrument to dance around the tune’s musical theme in a kind of nightclub jazzy-bluegrass fusion. She continues to prove her wide vocal range as she slips effortlessly between classic country heartache gold in Rock Salt and Nails, a flirty, swinging rendition of Hank Williams’ I’m Satisfied With You and the reflective pop croon of Dream A Little Dream Of Me.
It’s a fertile combination and one that’s carefully crafted as well with traditional bluegrass instrumentation blended into inventive acoustic arrangements, giving each of these songs a fresh and inviting sheen.