Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Rough Guide to the Music of the Balkan Gypsies [World Music Network, 2005]
The Rom, as these notes call them, set out from India a millennium ago and have long played music the way African freedmen did in Cuba--because it's low-class, low-paying work, but also because they're thought to have a knack. By 1700 or sooner they had seized local styles in dozens of European locales. There is no "real" Gypsy music, but the daredevil fiddles, skirling horns, and extreme vocals of the Balkan strains whose ins and outs they deploy come close enough. I'd never heard of most of these Romanian, Bulgarian, and other bands, but those I've encountered before, including Taraf de Ha´douks on a standout cut absent from their two Nonesuch albums, have never sounded better than in this can-you-top-this party. Not a new groove because it's not smooth enough. But more than one new beat, usually with a history. A-