Welcome to the rather ‘Happy’ world of Ilko Birov
The past few years we’ve been closely following Bulgarian (but Vancouver-raised) singer-songwriter Ilko Birov. His warm voice, sincere lyrics, flawless guitar skills and his signature mixture of country, blues and acoustic indie have always been a reason to go and see him live whenever we could. Regularly performing around Bulgaria, touring Italy and growing an impressive catalog of originals, alongside his awesome renditions of artists like Cash and Dylan, it was honestly high time we got a full-length album from Birov.
Thankfully, May 1, 2019, saw the release of ‘Happy’ – Ilko’s debut album. Released on both CD and digital formats, it was recorded at Sofia’s Urban House Studio who did a great job capturing the true spirit of the music. Spanning over 11 tracks, ‘Happy’ is a collection of some of the best pieces in the artist’s repertoire. You need not more than one listen later to have them stuck in your head forever and have no other choice but press play again. Time flies between the gentle double vocals-lead opener ‘I’ll Be’ (featuring singer Ekaterina Ivanova) and the heart-melting self-titled closing piece, whose lyrics, if we remember correctly, were inspired by a kid Ilko used to teach.
A quite important thing about the album is that Birov and his guitar (also piano, voice, and harmonica) are not alone on it. Percussions are handled by Nedislav Miladinov, who also engineered the record; double bass and strings are done by long-time Birov friend and collaborator Ivan Alexiev; the wild violin solo in ‘Happy’ is done by Konstantin Kuchev, another person you can often meet on Birov concerts. Besides writing catchy, slightly melancholic tunes, Birov is extremely skilled at arranging his music in a very delicate and beautiful manner. ‘Happy’ is a well thought-off album which was crafted with great attention to detail on each and every stage of its creation – be that writing, arrangement, production or artwork design.
Last but not least we’d like to mention Ilko’s skills as a lyricist. Yes, singer-songwriter music is all about personal emotions, life experiences and story-telling but the lyrics on ‘Happy’ are so well written that manage to be engaging and intriguing without impose certain imagery but rather leaving a lot of space for the listeners to actually find themselves. Just take a look at ‘All She Knew’ or ‘Who Can Love’ and you’ll see what we mean. Without a doubt, ‘Happy’ is one of the finest albums to have come out of Bulgaria this year and it’s only May.