Komersanti (The Merchants) play music in a folksy, country style. I wouldn’t necessarily call it schlager, though I think this album would appeal to schlager fans. Actually, they remind me a bit more of Bet Bet than anyone else. In any case, their 2002 album, Rozīt’ latviskā, is a collection of 12 songs in a number of different kind of folk styles.
The group is made up of Juris Pavītols on vocals and guitar (he’s also the main songwriter), Norlands Millers on guitar and vocals, Aldis Žīmants on bass guitar and vocals, and Edijs Cionelis on drums.
Komersanti prove themselves excellent musicians. However, the songs do not stay in memory very long, and I probably will not listen to this album much in the future.
One of my criticisms of this album is technical: the production makes some of the songs sound like they were recorded in an echo chamber. This is particularly evident on the lead track, “Roze,” which is a nice little song about a Latvian rose that is blooming somewhere very far away. Though this was probably my favorite song on the album, the echo effect on this song is a bit annoying.
Komersanti also must have listened to a few American country records, because there is a country feel to many of the songs. A good example is “Oda lidojums” (The Mosquito’s Flight), where the guitar work gives this song a particularly country feel. To further illustrate the country influence, they even have a song with a horse motif, “Zirga smaids” (The Horse’s Smile). No songs about pickup trucks, though!
Another song I like is “Aizlūgums.” Although once again in a country style, it is a very catchy, inoffensive song. “Velna dziesma” (The Devil’s Song), performed in more of a “boogie” style, is another a song I like. “Tu tik man netraucē” (Don’t You Disturb Me) is also a catchy song. I’m not sure who sings on the track, though it sounds strangely like Ainars Virga from the guitar rock group Līvi, as the vocal is rather deep and gruff. Like Līvi, Komersanti are from Liepāja, while Pavītols (who is a bit of rock legend in Latvia) has ties to Līvi.
Liner notes are very sparse, with no lyrics and just a few pictures of the band. Not knowing much about this group, it would have been nice to have a bit more information about the group in the notes.
Overall, Rozīt’ latviskā is not a bad album, but there are no songs that leap out and demand you listen to them over and over again. It is clear that these guys got together to play music, mainly because they enjoy it—and that is a good thing. They aren’t trying to change the world with their songs, and it is nice to listen to some music that isn’t overly earnest or overly serious.This is much better than much of the schlager in Latvia, as it isn’t bogged down by cheesy synthesizer tracks and drum machines. And because the members of the group are capable musicians, the album itself is very professionally done.
If you have an aversion to schlager or country music, best to avoid this release. This album is for those who prefer their music very mellow and with few surprises.
Baltic Records Group, 2002
BRG CD 120
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