Nine piece Norwich band The Vagaband surpass their fine second album with this rollicking mix of Dylan and Ronnie Lane like Romany swirls, full bodied and city sullied dramas and just plain old good fashioned songs. With the core of the band well able to rock and swing out their battalion of instruments allow them to range far and wide with elements of folk, jazz and country all encompassed. It’s an eclectic mix but it’s held together by front man José McGill who has one of those voices perfectly suited for singing vagabond songs, slightly nasal, unenforced , dare we say, Dylanesque?
The album certainly kicks off with a whiff of Dylan on the apocalyptic rush that is the title song as an acoustic guitar is scrubbed while the pedal steel and fiddle gear up with the song sounding as if it were forged from long nights listening to Desire. While Joe Wright’s fiddle skirls throughout the song continue to remind one of Scarlett Rivera the band fly free from any Dylan bonds with fluttering flute added to the mix. They return to this energetic spirit on ‘Not My Day To Die’ but the addition of clarinet and banjo adds an almost Klezmer feel to the song while the pedal steel solo and frontier lyrics tie the song to the Americana tradition. It’s a thrilling listen.
The Morricone meets Calexico themed ‘An Eye For An Eye’ allows the band to achieve a vivid widescreen effect, the whole panoply of their instruments billowing and blowing to great effect but there are several more sensitive moments as on the tender Dobro inflected ‘Black Eyed Sally’, a song which visits Bobbie Gentry territory to great effect while ‘Bright Are The Stars’ is a sinewy love song elevated by a tremendous band performance. Although there’s an obvious debt to American music throughout the album, McGill is at pains to point out that he’s not keen on us becoming the 51st State. ‘There’ll Only Be one Elvis’ is about him listening to Costello back in his youth and ‘One For The Road’, despite its country blues roots, sounds more like the band are trundling up the M1 as opposed to Route 66. An excellent album.