Album Title: Deserted Villages
Performers: George Dalaras, Dasho Kurti, Eleni Vitali, Babis Stokas, Artiola Toska, Fatos Selmna, Valbona Mema
Label & #: Tropical 68865
Play Time:
Recorded: 2007

Uncontested ruler of the Grecian pantheon of popular male vocalists, George Dalaras issued a gorgeous album of back-to-the-roots 'village' songs arranged and/or composed by Albanian accordionist Dasho Kurti. I just discovered it here in Lausanne in one of those vanishing music emporiums where you can listen to any CD in a small stall over wall-hanging loudspeakers. On Villages, the always generous super star not only invited guest singers for back-up harmonies, he gave Eleni Vitali and Babis Stokas their own songs. It's nearly an anthology then.

Without bouzouki, this album otherwise has it all - wise lyrics tempered
by experience; sinuous Greek clarinet, violin and plenty of guitars; danceable lilting rhythms that suggest fish tavernas and outdoor cafes - and most importantly, glorious vocalizing in the traditional style. Villages is for those who adore the old songs and this singer who works just as tirelessly on modernizing music as on Asphaltos for example.

So the title is fitting. I remember well the small hamlets in the Cyprus hills where old men would sit in the streets puffing cigarettes and sip sweet black coffee for hours on end; and where bent wrinkled women in black -- always black regardless of heat -- might be engaged in knitting or spinning wool. These villages did seem deserted. The hustle and bustle of the youngsters was down by the beaches and with the tourists. The villages meanwhile hung suspended in some timeless limbo as though waiting for the inevitable. It's this music you expected to hear there over a crusty old radio tuned into just the right station by an old-timer. That honey-voiced Dalaras would now lead us down those well-worn paths again is particularly charming. It makes Deserted Villages the perfect intro for the armchair traveller who hopes to avoid the garish tourist traps with their faux crap. Hit upon the very hear of a foreign culture via some magical back alley instead. Deserted Villages is that perfect vacation destination and passage.