Thursday 26 September 2013

Review: Harmonious Wail – Bohemian Tango

Harmonious Wail – Bohemian Tango (Bufflehead Recordings)
Founded in 1987 by bandleader and mandolinist Sims Delaney-Potthoff, Harmonious Wail have been performing, recording and releasing their music ever since. They take their inspiration from American folk, Americana and the European gypsy jazz tradition, place Delaney-Potthoff’s mandolin front and centre, and when combined with Maggie Delaney-Potthoff delightful vocals, the result is both charming and original.

Jazz-pop is all the rage these days – think Norah Jones, Jamie Cullum, etc. – and Harmonious Wail are perfectly placed to capitalize. And frankly, after a 25-year career, any success that comes their way is utterly deserved. There’s nothing difficult or inaccessible to what they do. Their playing is uncluttered and warm, always melodic, with plenty of instrumental flourishes. Maggie Delaney-Potthoff possesses a voice that’s completely at ease, whether singing straight jazz or the group’s poppier material (let’s not forget that jazz vocalists were the pop stars in the pre-rock ‘n’ roll ‘40s and ‘50s), and their songs are ideally suited to grown-up daytime radio.

They launch “Bohemian Tango” with one of their best; “Peace Of Mind” features both Delaney-Potthoffs on vocals and there’s a clear early ‘70s vibe present, which brings to mind Bob Weir’s solo work, while simultaneously being jazzier and lighter. It’s a cracking start. On “Gatekeeper” Maggie Delaney-Potthoff steps forward, and the sultry backing allows her the space to soar. She’s equally noteworthy on the title track, and “Paquito” has a wonderful pre-war, old world, Parisian air about it – it’s impossible not to think of Maigret strolling along a cafe-lined boulevard at dusk.
Phil S.

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