Not to be confused with the music of the Gipsy Kings who are rooted in Spanish and Flamenco styles, Harmonious Wail draws from the rich influence of the European gypsy musicians, most notably Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli who from the 1930s on created and developed what came to be known as Gypsy Swing.
First pleasant surprise when starting the CD is that it clocks in with the announcement of 76 minutes of music, finally someone using the capacity of the medium, thanks! And from the first notes that jump from the strings you realize that they will be short and most delightful! Consisting mostly of guitars, mandolin, violin, voice and the occasional accordion and percussion, Harmonious Wail delivers these mostly traditional songs and instrumentals with fresh energy that gets your fingers snapping and toes tapping! Each instrument is played masterfully precise and with obvious joy. The band is tight throughout the tempo changes and it shows that they have already had fifteen years of playing together. So, whether the instruments are sounding off with parallel harmonious runs, back and forth "conversation", lead or solo features, they are hot! Influences from Eastern European, Samba, Bossa Nova and Bluegrass music can be detected and contribute to color, texture and richness of the listening experience.
And then there is the voice of Maggie, which is featured on roughly half the songs, very expressive from crooning to wailing to unison scats with the strings. When she sings Moscow Nights - the opener of the album - first in English and then in Russian, it's like taking the trip and waiting for the Cossacks to appear. The Sheik of Araby is the only track where (some of) the other members add their voices, and they do sing fine harmonies.
I first was introduced to Gypsy Swing by a record of the Schnuckenack Reinhardt Quintet of the late 60s which had this exciting rhythm and I'm glad that Harmonious Wail is bringing this music in such fine quality to the living rooms, coffee houses and festival audiences. I bet they are a blast on stage. Do yourself (or others) a favour and expose yourself and them!
Page design by David N. Pyles