Heart of the Heartland

Peter Ostroushko

Red House Records 70

A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark Horn

Heart of the Heartland is an instrumental album that you will want to put on when you get home from work. It will whisk you away to another place far beyond the frustrations and anxiety of the day. Like a meditation session, it will refresh and renew your spirit. Care should be given to ensure you do not become addicted to its intoxicating melodies. This is prescription strength relaxation we're talking.

The album breezes into your soul like a warm summer wind off the prairie. The opening cut called "Seattle" and subtitled "The Fantasy Reel" is a light and airy fiddle tune that introduces the flat picking pyrotechnics of guitarist Dan Magraw and the piano virtuosity of Richard Dworsky.

Ostroushko brings so very much to the table as a writer and musician that you are treated to a blending of styles and instrumentation that few others successfully pull off. "Montana" combines western themes with the double picking mandolin playing that is often associated with Peter's eastern European folk tunes. Following on the heals of that haunting piece is a sublime string suite featuring fiddle, cellos and piano. Somewhere in the midst of "Dakota Themes" I lost track of time and surroundings. The closing tune of the suite, "Pigs Eye Reel", is so evocative, I swore I was at a Saturday night Grange Hall dance. The brilliance proceeds unabated through the last song.

Instrumental albums frequently contain several select cuts, some showcase pieces for the artist's musical prowess and a load of fluff. Not so here. This is all the good stuff with no fillers, artificial coloring or sweeteners. As producer, and co-mix engineer, Ostroushko's influence is felt throughout. From selection of the material, to the arrangements and mixing this is a cohesive project that knows where it's going at all times.

Minnesota, Ostroushko's home, is as much about place as anywhere in America. That feeling of belonging and connection runs throughout this album. If you want to experience a sense of place as strong as an Arron Copeland Suite, give Heart of the Heartland a spin. You will not be disappointed.

This review is copyrighted by Three Rivers Folklife Society, 1995.
It may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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