Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

NATASHA BORZILOVA

Balancing Act

2010-11-28

Nick's Picks: 03, 04, 09

Folk music is one of those rare genres of music whereby the emphasis and interest is based more on the message than on the messenger. Natasha Borzilova is one of those talented individuals that represents both the message and the messenger. With one exception (“Retchka”, a traditional Russian folk song), all the songs on this cd were crafted by the very talented Natasha Borzilova. The music revolves around intricate riffs on the acoustic guitar, with an echoing back bass (Byron House), supplemented by a talented duo of Billy Pardo on electric guitar/mandolin, and Alexander Arzamastsev on cajon and percussion. Although I have been listening to this cd for several hours, I just cannot seem to get past the gifted instrumental musicality to be able to get a handle on the singing and the words. Indeed, the singing is first-rate, as is the songwriting. I can only hope that we will be treated to more from this talented artist. Just my two nickels ------Nick

ARTIST BIO Born in Obninsk, Russia, Natasha Borzilova moved to Nashville as the lead singer and acoustic guitarist of the band Bering Strait, which was put together as a group of classically trained child prodigies in the late 1980’s. Since then Bering Strait had two CD releases on Universal South Records, receiving critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination for country instrumental of the year in 2002. The Grammy nod got the attention of 60 Minutes whose feature piece on the band aired three times. The public also became familiar with Natasha and her fellow band members through the documentary Te Ballad of Bering Strait, directed by Emmy Award winner Nina Seavey which chronicled the journey of the band members after they arrived in the United States. In 2006 the band decided to go their separate ways realizing they had each evol ved in different musical directions. For Borzilova, suddenly being a solo artist meant an opportunity to re-visit songs she had been writing for the past several years and she released her first solo project of original material in 2008 titled Cheap Escape, a stylistic hybrid of folk & rock yet offering glimpses of her classical and jazz training. With a natural gravitation toward nuance in her lyrics, one would be hard pressed to believe that English is not her first language. A seasoned entertainer, she is exciting with a full band behind her yet completely captivating and intriguing with just her voice and guitar; a feat few singers can pull off.  For her second solo project, Borzilova originally had the idea to do an acoustic CD of Russian folks songs at the suggestion of fans but after starting her research, she realized many of the songs she had wanted to include were not traditional folks songs and had authors. Then her label suggested she look at some of the tunes she had written that came off so well in the acoustic treatment given on the original demos and consider them for an acoustic project. With Borzilova playing nearly all of the record’s acoustic guitar parts, she brought in Billy Panda with his arsenal of stringed instruments to play mandocello, high string, National guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, bottleneck, baritone acoustic and gut string. She was fortunate to have Byron House play upright and Arco bass between him finishing up the new Robert Plant project and heading out on tour with Plant. Finally she reunited with former bandmate Alexander Arzamastsev on cajon and percussion. In Borzilova’s own words about the song choices for her second solo venture, “Choosing the songs for the album, I realized how many of them were dealing with finding balance, fitting in and trying to figure out the best way to integrate contrasting sides of my character. Balancing; literally and figuratively, has been a theme of my life for a long time. Moving to the States in my late teens provided me with endless opportunities of putting my foot in my mouth and falling on my face because of the vast difference between the customs of fast-paced, super-direct urban Russia and ths soft spoken American south. I had to learn to apply diplomacy without losing my ability to speak the truth. Then life complicated itself when I (in rapid succession) became a new mother, lost my job of eighteen years with the disbandment of Bering Strait, found a new passion and career of teaching yoga (balancing, anyone?) and began to find my voice as a solo artist. I'm still dedicating most of my energy to perfecting the art of being all these contrasting, yet somehow complimentary things, so calling this album Balancing Act felt natural. Plus, it gave me an opportunity to take some pictures standing on my head!”

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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