Davina & the Vagabonds Sugar Drops Compass Records
Bringing The Good Times Back on a Sure Fire Game Changer!
Although it was in 2012, I can still distinctly remember the night I ‘discovered’ the wondressness that is Davina and the Vagabonds at the Jumpin’ Hot Club in Newcastle which is now in my Top 10 gigs of all time; and their headline appearance on the JHC Outside Stage at SummerTyne at couple of years later certainly runs it close. Unashamedly ‘traditional’ and even ‘old fashioned’ in the way Davina & The Vagabonds go about their business breathing new life into New Orleans Jazz infused Swing, you forget everything that’s on the other side of the door when this larger than life character enters your life. While 99% of what happens live and on record revolves around the Divine Miss D, be under no illusions kiddies, this is very much a Band effort with a capital B. This latest album opens with Bone Collection; a bit of a leftfield love song in the style of Satchmo or a young Ella, with Davina Lozier (nee Sowerby) deftly making the piano break your heart as Zack Lozier makes the clarinet cool for the first ever time! Love, heartbreak and redemption are the obvious golden threads that weave through every song here; and Davina’s songwriting is undoubtedly up there with best of her contempories today; with the swoonsome Mr. Big Talker and Another Lonely Place sounding as if they wouldn’t have been out of place on an album by Ella, Dusty or Amy, such is their majesty and the single Little Miss Sunshine has quite rightly been a radio hit across the world. Then, there’s the title track Sugar Drops with Davina underplaying some rather beautiful piano playing as she shows what a wonderful singer she really is under all the hoopla and facial shenanigans that we associate with her. My copy of this album is as a download, but for once I understand where the Vinyl Fetishists are coming from; as songs like I Can’t Believe I Let You Go and Magic Kisses, with Zack Lozier trying to blow his larynx out on trumpet extraordinaire deserve your full attention and will only benefit from the drama of placing the record on a turntable then having to turn it over to hear the rest. While this an old fashioned Long Player (with some very commercial singles too) there is one particular song stands out like a bright red poppy. I’m going to make a brave statement now …….. with only a modicum of airplay and judicial TV Appearances, Devil Horns will be a Game Changer for Davina and The Vagabonds as it has all the hallmarks of becoming a modern day classic, and the cute inclusion of Ring of Fire’ by the horn section halfway through does it no harm at all. I’ve been a fan for 7 years now and SUGAR DROPS just may be the break-out album that Davina and the Vagabonds have worked so very hard at to deserve. Fingers crossed.
NAVIGATE THE MADNESS
Heartfelt Observations And Challenging Storytelling.
As I’ve mentioned before we receive of music and from a variety of sources here at RMHQ; recently we’ve moved up in the world with albums by Rod Stewart and Elvis Costello arriving on the doormat (along with a couple of other Superstars that aren’t really our ‘thang’) but more often than not it’s from artistes and bands at the other end of the spectrum who need a helping hand to get their music noticed.
Such is the case with this mesmerising debut ‘solo’ album from Eleanor Underhill; one half of Underhill Rose whom we once reviewed very heartily a while ago, but now a mate of the American Magpie Roy Peak esq. who advised her to get in touch.
It’s obvious from the ethereal intenseness of the opening track Imperfect World, that Eleanor is taking a very different path from Underhill Rose’s delightful Country infused harmonies. This is dark stuff indeed; and sadly very apt for the world we live in today.
A sullen bass and cello precede Eleanor’s brittle vocal performance on Stranger Things Have Come, which follows and continue through a strange song and arrangement about Political Shenanigans with the result taking us deep into Nick Cave and Tom Waits territory.
Now I’ve played the album a couple of times, it’s always Tom Waits and Nick Cave that spring to mind; which is no bad thing at all…….and will give you an idea of how challenging some of these songs and subjects are.
One night I listened on headphones and a couple of songs hit me square on the jaw; making me want to shout “You should hear this!” To my wife; but that wouldn’t have been met with a favourable response. Never Meant To Say Goodbye is breathtaking from start to finish; and the musical arrangement on Into The Unknown is some kind of weird Modern Jazz/Folk hybrid with an opera singer in the background; but bizarrely works behind Underhill’s scorching lyrics.
The other one was Captured In Arms, which has a more traditionally commercial feel to it (albeit with a banjo as lead instrument); but the song itself is breath-taking as Eleanor takes us on a very dark journey indeed.
Choosing a Favourite Song here is never going to be simple; but I keep coming back to Cold Wind Blues which blends in perfectly well with everything else here but there’s something in the way Eleanor Underhill delivers her stark tale over a mish-mash of Electro-Jazz and Old-Timey Blues sounds like it’s very special to the singer herself; so I’m going for that one…… or maybe the quirky Hard To Find. Oh, I don’t know!
Each individual song and story compliments everything around it; although many take a course of juxtaposition at the same time……. Which I’ve loved hearing; it’s been a bit of a challenge; especially as much of the subject matter isn’t exactly easy to listen to, but the overall result is simply outstanding in its own special way.
I don’t want to be inundated with similar Masterworks any time soon!