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Armand Margjeka was born in Tropoja, an Albanian town at the foot of the Alps. “Tropoja was one of the most isolated villages in an isolated country,” Margjeka says. The communist regime he grew up with was oppressive, but somehow a mix tape of American rock’n’roll found its way into Margjeka’s hands. “Maybe my sister brought it back from University, I don’t remember, but hearing Elvis, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard changed my life.”Read More...
That tape sent Margjeka on a journey of discovery. He eventually moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he's spent time writing, performing and producing. After a 2 year period with the alt country outfit Buffalo Black, Margjeka steps out with Margo Margo, his first solo album. A few months in the making, the album includes bedroom recordings and performances cut in Nashville with seasoned session players.
“Momma” opens like an old time country ballad, with acoustic guitar and Margjeka’s mellow baritone occasionally slipping into falsetto to emphasize the emotional lyric, a conversation between a son and mother. Pedal steel, banjo and the subtle heartbeat of a kick drum add to the song’s emotional tension. Margjeka’s crystalline fingerpicking and intimate vocals highlight “Darling,” a song to his wife loosely based on the traditional cowboy tune, “Clementine.” His restrained electric guitar work drops hushed, melancholy notes into the mix to add to its passionate feel. The vocal harmonies of “Alive” were tracked in Margjeka’s bedroom. Acoustic guitar, bowed bass and a country high hat give the tune a jaunty feel, while the vocals hint at Baroque choral singing.
Other solid tracks include “Desire,” a tune influenced by the work of Serge Gainsbourg; “Spring Season Babe,” a love song that owes it’s unique sound to a blend of sonorous trombone and pedal steel and “What Feeling,” a laid back rocker with a tongue twisting lyric that’s halfway between folky crooning and talking. Margjeka likens it to Dylan and The National. “When I’m singing, I don’t have a sense of anything outside of the song,” Margjeka explains. “Even playing in front of five people, I forget who I am and I give everything I have. "
Margjeka was born in Albania and raised on American music. After the fall of Communism, satellite dishes came in. “We had MTV Europe in the 90s, good years for music videos. I spent all summer watching TV, fascinated by Western music and pop culture. I dreamed about going to America.”
Margjeka took English in high school, but music videos and tapes of some of his favorite artists taught him more about the language than he learned in school. He picked up guitar during his years at an Albanian Music and Arts high school and started writing songs. He came to the States as an exchange student when he was 17. After finishing his education he worked at a ranch in Long Island and he put all his savings into recording songs he'd been writing at the time. these recordings got an indie label interested and eventually they signed Margjeka but the deal was nothing short of a one-sided nightmare favoring the label, so he had to make a move and change direction. “I helped a friend to move to Birmingham, AL in 2008. I thought I’d stay for a week or two, but I got a job, fell in love and started writing and recording new music.”
Birmingham’s open mic scene introduced Margjeka to the musicians that performed and recorded as Buffalo Black. The band made two digital EPs and an eponymous album of American roots rock, mostly Margjeka’s originals, but he wanted to reach further out past the confines of the Americana sound. “I love folk and country, but I want to do music without any preconceived parameters. I like to combine unexpected elements in my music. Margo is completely honest and shows the directions I want to pursue in my songwriting and playing.”