Scythian: Turning traditional on its head

Article Published: Sep. 23, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Scythian: Turning traditional on its head

There's only one band out there that can work Irish and Celtic festivals, MerleFest, Renaissance fairs, college campuses, and fit in at each venue amazingly: Scythian.

Scythian, Live Vol. 2 serves as proof.

Scythian hail from Washington, D.C. Three of the four members, Joseph Crosby and brothers Danylo and Alexander Fedoryka, are classically-trained musicians and serve as the string section of the group. Drummer Michael Ounallah comes to the group with a jazz background. The group has released three studio albums and one live album, Live Vol. 1.

Existing fans of Scythian will obviously enjoy the second installment of live performances, but what about everyone else?

First, it must be understood Scythian's latest release is a live album comprised of a number of different shows played at clubs and festivals. To do a live album justice, one can't listen to it on any crappy old stereo. Doing so results in not being able to hear the lyrics clearly and might give the impression the band had a bad sound guy.

Secondly, as with any performer, it may be more beneficial for some first-time listeners to listen to the Scythian's studio material before digging into their live catalog. However, listening to the live album first gives the listener a full insight into a band's talents and abilities outside of a controlled setting. With Live, Vol. 2, Scythian has the ability to play freely what they wish, including songs that have not appeared on their albums.

Live, Vol. 2 begins with traditional instrumental number. With it, the musicianship of Scythian is instantly noted. From the opening song, the individuals of Scythian exude prowess over their instruments, whether it be the fiddle, mandolin, drums or even the accordion.

The versatility of Scythian makes their style of music almost indefinable. Though many consider them an Irish-styled rock band, others may think they a have multiple personality disorder. Bluegrass, reggae, polka, hip hop, a Native American war dance ("Chipperwar"), and a popular Ukrainian folk song ("Hutsulka Ksenia") all make appearances on Live, Vol. 2.

A classic Johnny Cash song everyone should recognize, Scythian treats "Folsom Prison Blues" just like a train coming down the tracks, even derailing for a moment to give their drummer a hard time for not playing fast enough. It's apparent Scythian are fun-loving guys, especially on the stage.

If there are no other songs that will make the listener want to get up and get out to a Scythian show, "Technoccordian" will seal the deal. It is by far the most entertaining song on the album. The group uses audience participation and parts of Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" and Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" to make the accordion sexy.

Scythian view their live shows as "pure therapy" for themselves and their audience. An alternating current runs from the stage to the floor, from the band to the crowd and back. This "therapy" keeps the band in forward momentum and the crowd feeling like they just drank a round of Irish car bombs.

What Scythian does not need is therapy for the many identities within their music. Scythian demonstrates it is possible to be a classical musician and play traditional music without being boring and stuffy. Live, Vol. 2 is a welcome disruption to the conventional.

Scythian is online at They will perform at Legends on the campus of Appalachian State University on Friday, Sept. 24, at 9 p.m.

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