RIGA - Ainars Mielavs' voice is a wonder within itself. Soothing, raspy, entrancing, it's enough to lull anyone into a dreamy sleep. Alongside BrainStorm's lead singer Renars Kaupers, Mielavs is one of the few Latvian musicians whose vocal chords alone have won over the heart of a country.
Since beginning the band Jauns Meness alongside Gints Sola in 1987, the singer has become one of Latvia's most beloved. Mielavs' voice is like a fingerprint 's mysterious and inimitable. And his lyrics have earned him a place among the nation's poets. Just mention the name, Mielavs, to any Latvian and you're bound to get a smile.
Outside the Baltics, Jauns Meness is perhaps best known for being the first (and only) band in post-Soviet Latvia to win the prestigious Sopot Music Festival in 1991. In the wave of attention that followed, the group was invited to perform in New York's legendary CBGB's concert house, Boston's Metro Cabaret and at the 1st Avenue in Minneapolis. Art Troitsky, a distinguished rock critic, once called Jauns Meness "the most impressive if not the only example of Baltic rock."
Now playing under a new name, Mielavs & Parcelaji (Mielavs and the Ferrymen), Mielavs and Sola are the only two remaining band members from the original set-up. But they've carried Jauns Meness' distinctive sound along with them.
Mielavs' latest album, "Paruna ar Sevi" ("Talk to Yourself") carries just as much warmth and beauty as his previous. The Latvian lyrics, whether understood or not, will bring a lump to your throat. Percussionist Juris Kroics adds a soft and sandy background to the songs, while Sola plays either guitar, banjo or mandolin. Together, the trio is sublime.
Most of Mielavs' songs carry a traditional Latvian spirit; poetry about life in the countryside, Midsummer's night, the Baltic sea, courageous men and broken-hearted women. They are subtle proof that the Latvian folk song can exist even today. Each song in "Paruna ar Sevi" has its own charm and none are better than the others. Mielavs' music works together as a whole, and from beginning to end, his performance will move you.
When listening to Mielavs at home, you can't help but crawl into bed with a warm cup of tea. Hopefully, the cushioned seats of Riga New Theater will serve just as well. You may be lulled into sleep, but please, out of consideration for others, try not to snore.
Mielavs & Parcelaji
"Paruna ar Sevi"
New Riga Theater
Dec. 10, 19:00
Tickets: 7-14 euros