“Kostis” was the most enigmatic of all Greek rebetika artists. 12 songs of truly unique guitar duets and black-humor lyrics chronicling the hash dens, prison culture and pickpockets of old Athens. Recorded under a pseudonym for export to the Greeks living in America, research has uncovered the musician, journalist and cartoonist Kostas Bezos as the figure lurking behind the Kostis name, with ties to the famous singer Tetos Demetriades. Renowned for his slide guitar playing in Hawaiian-influenced orchestras throughout the 1930s, the Kostis recordings reveal an entirely different underworld of the macabre and illicit. The use of guitar in these now-classic rebetika songs display a virtuosity of finger-picked Near-Eastern modes and unusual tunings at the dawn of rebetika, when the bouzouki was yet to become supreme.
Presented in pristine audio quality mastered from original 78 rpm discs by Michael Graves, “The Jail’s a Fine School” stands as an important document of an enduring mystery in Greek music, and a high standard for what was once a truly subversive art form.
LP version includes a 28 page booklet with extensive notes and research by Tony Klein (“Greek Rhapsody,” “Mortika”) and Dimitris Kourtis, full lyrics in Greek and English, and several previously unpublished photographs. Digital version includes a PDF of the full booklet.
Co-released by Olvido Records and Mississippi Records on September 17, 2015. OLV-001 / MRP-097. Vinyl version available wherever fine records are sold.
Release page with streaming audio at Olvido Records website.
Digital download available at Olvido Records Bandcamp.