Reviews

The VagabandThe Vagaband
Album: Medicine For The Soul
Label: Eggsong
Tracks: 11
Website: http://www.thevagaband.co.uk

The Vagaband are an 8 piece roots-rock band hailing from Norfolk that bring along an eclectic mix of instruments, they list flugel horn, pedal steel, marxophone and jews harp amongst the more usual, mix of guitars, mandolin, bass, fiddle, keyboards, sax and drums. Their members can claim influences of Britpop, Folk, Country and Ska. A combination they fuse together and meld to become a musical soundscape, a film soundtrack if you like in search of a movie.

From the opening ghostly intro (Top Of The Morning) that quickly turns to harmonies before changing again into the second track "Lifted" it provides a depth and a subtlety that's rewarded with every continual listen.

That's if you can get past the hook laden songs that jump out and grab you with their catchy melodies. This is music that deserves to be heard. Frequently!

A banjo driven, jews harp aided "Black Sheep" kicks off at a rapid pace, it could be straight out of a Western "Now they say you can't chose your relations, And they're a weird combination, But I wouldn't think to change them if I could" and as the song evolves we get to find out about the activities of those relations.

"There's a time to dance, a time to die" proclaims the "Whistling Song" a theme which continues throughout on these songs written in the main by Jose McGill and Gregory Cook the only exception being a rip roaring cover of Ween's Gabrielle (the original sounding like Thin Lizzy which in the Vagabands hands becomes a danceable fiddle led wonder).

The title track "Medicine For The Soul" is an ode to the late Texan songwriter Townes Van Zandt including a spoken sound clip from the film documentary "Heartworn Highways" featuring Van Zandt , a genius who struggled with depression and alcohol through his too brief life. It's a song that also nods it's head to the Beatles and Pink Floyd, the former more heavily than the latter.

"Roll The Thunder" is a breathtakingly beautiful understated relationship song "You and I aren't getting any younger, Roll the dice come roll the thunder". You could listen to the finger picking all day long and not get bored. Well at least I could, it's Matthews Southern Comfort meets Nick Drake on a good day.

"Ten Bells Waltz" evokes a fairground feel but one that's slow and deliciously dark. It's the perfect introduction to the piano heavy "A Town With No Name" where McGill and Cook paint a picture of a town by the sea and the human flotsam and jetsam left behind once the glory days have faded.

And if the mellow appeal of "Cisco Wine" suggests a happy temporarily inebriated solution, it's one that is short lived. We close with "A Different Drum", a sombre epic of a song about not being wanted anymore that floats with instrumentation like the best of Love's "Forever Changes". It's so quiet and reserved you have to listen.

It is a perfect ending to an outstanding album.

Ian Cripps