Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Review: Jukebox Gypsy

Jukebox Gypsy have achieved the perfect blend of traditional Celtic & English folk, Americana and Folk Revival with there eponymous debut.  The album opens with the raucous ballad Whatever Happened To Elijah Cale setting the feel for the rest of the album.  The vocal harmonies and interplay between Ben Blance, Dave Hastie, Johanna Hillebrand and Isaac Tabor throughout the album are a brilliantly arranged with call and response sections fitting perfectly.  The album steps back from it’s up tempo opener with the more relaxed banjo led February and featuring Lucy Macdonald’s exquisite violin line and a catchy chorus.  

The uplifting Celtic climax of Union Hymn is quickly contrasted by the Americana feel of Papa Joe’s slide guitar groove. The delicate opening violin line of Water slows the albums pace as the song introduces finely balanced male/female vocal harmony and guitar harmonics.

The album’s passage from genre to genre adds to the aesthetic of the record springing a few surprises on listeners.  Automatic immediately reminded me of Stephen Still’s early solo records with its blues acoustic guitar line and as the texture builds towards the end of the song it unleashes a brilliant solo.  A couple of tracks later the record slips into Hey Mama: a catchy, easy going Ry Cooder-esque protest song with a gypsy jazz solo, reminiscent of something from a ‘30s D’jango Reinhardt record which was a nice little surprise.

The climax of the album comes from Over The Mountain, a song CSN&Y would be proud of.  This song really grooves and the electric guitar has a heavy blues rock flavour.
The album then ambles to a close with 2 more quiet tracks: the delightful Celtic flavoured Innismor & delicate folk song The Rain Invitation which showcases Johanna Hillebrand’s solo vocals. 

I think if the album had closed with the barnstorming Over the Mountain and the last two more sedate tracks had come earlier in the running order the album would feel more solidly concluded rather than have these later tracks feel slightly like after thoughts.  The fluidity of the album’s genre hopping makes it a thoroughly enjoyable listen.  

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