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Bering Strait

Bering Strait

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Album Review

For the benefit of the geographically challenged, the Bering Strait is the stretch of water, 55 miles across at its narrowest, between western Alaska and eastern Siberia, the place where the U.S. and Russia come the closest to connecting. In fact, since it is frozen over more than half the year, it's the point at which the two countries do connect. The name is an appropriate one, then, to be taken by a Russian group playing Western-style country music. The classically trained musicians certainly known their way around Nashville licks, and lead singer Natasha Borzilova has her accent under control to the extent of sounding American, if not actually southern. As a result, you could listen to most of the group's debut album without knowing that they come from Obninsk. But if the members transcend the novelty status of their origins, Bering Strait necessarily faces a second challenge: Is it a significant country act? And here the answer is more problematic. Producer Brent Maher has marshaled the usual songwriting pros in Music City and given the group a contemporary country (which is to say, pop/rock) sound that makes it possible to play them on country radio alongside Faith Hill and Shania Twain, but that means that, for the most part, Bering Strait is just another mediocre Nashville product. It isn't until near the end, with the instrumental "Bearing Straight," which is actually a medley of bluegrass and new age tunes, that the group's musicianship begins to have an individual flavor. This is followed by "Porushka-Paranya," a country hoedown with Russian lyrics. If the album contained more tracks like that, instead of being dominated by bland romantic ballads, Bering Strait might seem like an interesting new wrinkle in country music instead of another run-of-the-mill Nashville project with exotic origins.

Customer Reviews

From Russia with Love

Bering Strait is a band of classically-trained Russian teenagers, but mostly you wouldn't know they aren't from Peoria. This works to their advantage on the Patsy Cline-like "I Could Be Persuaded," but too often the producers try to excise out any foreign aspects, resulting in pleasant but undistinguished songs. Where they really shine is when their stellar handling of fiddle, guitar, dobro, banjo, and keyboards is unleashed, as on the Grammy-nominated instrumental "Bearing Strait," and in their energetic adaptation of the traditional Russian folk song "Porushka-Paranya." If you've seen the documentary movie about the band you can't help pulling for them. I have enjoyed listening to this album many times and hope they can find their own distinctive voice.

Biography

Formed: Obninsk, Russia

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s

The country group Bering Strait took one of the more unusual paths to major-label status in Nashville. Natives of Obninsk, Russia, the group — consisting of Ilya Toshinsky (guitar, banjo, vocals; born November 28, 1977), Natasha Borzilova (vocals, guitar; born August 19, 1978), Sasha Ostrovsky (dobro, steel guitar, lap steel; born August 11, 1980), Lydia Salnikova (keyboards, vocals; born August 10, 1980), and Alexander Arzamastsev (drums; born September 15, 1973) — was organized by a...
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Bering Strait, Bering Strait
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Contemporaries

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