” Black Cloud” Review -> Listeners Guild

12/1/11 REVIEW

Davina and the Vagabonds: Black Cloud

When I first heard Davina and the Vagabonds the only description that popped into my head was “old-timey,” which I use to describe anything too old to be retro and not old enough to be classical. I didn’t know whether it was blues or jazz, whether it was from the ‘20s or ‘40s. So I did some research and found that they represent a healthy blend of all of the above.

But having completed my extensive research* I have to call them a jazz band with their largest influences being swing [traditional swing, not the resurgent ‘90s stuff] and Dixieland. They also have a heavy blues element mostly by way of the piano which also has enough ragtime in it to dip its toe in the ‘20s.

Fans of big brass and fast piano will be pleased with the album but the star of the show is Davina’s voice.  She sings with the power of diva but with a vaudeville playfulness making her performances simultaneously respectable and relatable. I have not yet seen them live but their studio performance paves for great expectations of a larger than life experience.

The Vagabonds don’t deliver an innovative** new genre nor do they offer mastery of a specific sub-genre from long ago. What they offer is a fun energetic smorgasbord of New Orleans music reminiscent of the early twentieth century that will add depth to any music library (particularly collections concentrated [on/with] local or recent original music).

*Two hours of browsing through Wikipedia and Spotify

**A lot of people judge music against a standard of innovation. There’s nothing wrong with that but there’s a lot of great music that doesn’t try to be innovative. Different standards apply to different forms of music based on what they’re going for. In that sense, “reverential” can be seen as a creative opposite to “innovative.” Its creative merit is based not on how it recreates but on how it recaptures and its success is based in large part on its reverence to an existing genre or media. I plan on writing more about how different standards apply to different music later.


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