Album: Ukrainian Folk Music, Vol. VIII: Glory to the Heroes by Brothers Ivan

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On Brother Ivan’s eighth collection of Ukrainian folk songs, comprising 17 pieces from different points of the history of the Ukraine, and wholly encompassing a rich heritage of music via vocals and mostly simplistic instrumentation. Glory to the Heroes capably puts the spotlight on a vivid musical canon that would likely go under the radar if not for efforts like those of Brother Ivan’s.

Brothers Ivan is a folk duo based in the town of Peru, Indiana, and composed of brothers Petro and Nick Ivanovich Sahaidachny. On the eighth installment of the Ukrainian Folk Music series, the only one recorded and conceived after the onset of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the brothers have decided to go down a decidedly melancholic and patriotic route, resulting in an album of somber, restrained undertones. Sung entirely in Ukrainian, the sad, slow songs have a specific luster that would fit a campfire in a short ceasefire window, somewhere in the war-torn countryside, and the instrumentation that is exclusively composed of acoustic instrumentation, mainly acoustic guitar among other ethnic, Ukrainian stringed instruments, does serve this vision very well.

From resonant acoustic guitar dominated cuts, to ones that utilize the ethnic strings to their full power (those are my favorites), to acapella military marshes to Cossacks, the whole album calls for unity for the Ukrainian people in the face of their common enemy. Commendable are the vocals that the second-generation brothers are delivering, mostly guttural and low, the texture adds a considerable amount of weight and grit to the minimalistic soundscapes, putting the spotlight further on the sound of the sung Ukrainian, and amplifying the campfire feel of the songs and their intentionally barren arrangements.

The beautifully heartfelt emotions of the music and the immediacy of the vocal and guitar performances make almost the entirety of this album worth a deep listen. Of course, knowing the language would add a great deal of meaning to the words, but that takes nothing away from the striking honesty of the atmospheres that the brothers create with their choices; harmonic, melodic, textural, and instrumental. The eighth volume of Ukrainian folk songs from Brothers Ivan is a listen of great patriotic and cultural value that was ultimately easy to listen to, given its great length, a hallmark of good musicianship.