San Francisco Bay Area based world music ensemble, Stellamara, travels to the Island of Crete and emerges with their new album, "The Golden Thread." In collaboration with the European legends, Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma, and with NY-based cellist Rufus Cappadocia, "The Golden Thread" is immersed in otherworldly melodies, deep musical meditations, and astonishing improvisations. With her extraordinarily intricate, siren-like voice, Sonja Drakulich carries the listener on a journey into realms of beauty both deeply known and yet undiscovered. "The Golden Thread" travels beyond any derivations or trends in world music, diving deeply into a felt experience of the divine. This is Stellamara's third CD release, and it exceeds all expectations. It is a truly masterful creation.
Each masterful release by Stellamara has appeared years apart, but the treasures and rewards are well worth the wait. Led by the exquisitely gifted singer Sonja Drakulich, with her Hungarian and Serbian ancestry, this group runs on a feverish energy that always stops sufficiently short of frenetic, although they never lack intensity. Right from the start, the virtuoso playing of the members of Stellamara becomes ever-present, while the stellar interplay lends an even greater power to their wonderful web of sound. You'll find yourself wishing for an even stronger vocal emphasis if only because of the magnificent vehicle of vocal expression that Sonja possesses. Her voice is at a never-ending peak of clarity and luminosity, from soft, distant and tailing off into the night, to lively and ignited by fires that burn brightly within. At times she may bring to mind Lisa Gerrard, Loreena McKennit or Azam Ali, but the magnificent way she uses her voice is hers alone. There is no lack of power or presence in this intricately realized music, and those who favor Balkan, Medieval, Persian, Arabic, Greek, Turkish or Far Eastern music will find themselves captured quite easily in the free-flowing marvel that is created. Gari Hegedus has a repertoire that utilizes various Eastern modal systems, and he plays Oud, Baglama, and Mandocello proficiently, taking each passage to a soulful level of modern passion. Cellist Rufus Cappadocia, percussionist Tobias Roberson and clarinet player Peter Jaques join in the sublime magic, moving the music from evocative to inward while driven with a balance that is carefully maintained yet not controlled. Featured as well are two Lyra players (a small pear-shaped upright fiddle from Crete): Irish-born Ross Daly (who also plays Baglama, Divan Saz, Tarbu and African Rebab) and Kelly Thoma (she is also part of the group Labyrinth w/Daly). There is a deeply devotional sense to this music which ebbs and flows from faraway places and times, making for a listening experience that is quite remarkable and unforgettable.
—Lloyd Barde, Common Ground Magazine August 2009