(2013 Bufflehead Recordings)
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Celebrating 26 years of making jazz and gypsy swing music, Harmonious Wail returns with their seventh CD Bohemian Tango. It’s their first recording since pairing down to a trio in February of 2012. The band still consists of founder and multi-instrumentalist Sims Delaney-Pothoff and his partner (in music and in life) vocalist/percussionist Maggie Delaney-Pothoff. They are joined by bassist Jeff Weiss. Although the band released a compilation in 2012, this is the first studio recording since 2010’s The Vegan Zombie’s Lament, which saw the band take a bit of a folky turn.
There are plenty of guests to augment the trio on Bohemian Tango, namely keyboardist Dave Adler from the Gomers, saxophonist Les Thimming, guitarists Gonzalo Bergara, Jason Miller and former Wail member Mark Krietzer. Kelby Kryshak adds drums and congas and backing vocals are supplied by Mary Gaines, Susan Robertson and Josh Harty.
Curiously son Emmett Delaney takes lead vocals on one track, a cover of Melvern Taylor’s “It’s Not My Fault.” This exceptional track also features a beautiful bass solo from Weiss. It continues a move toward folk along with a cover of Nancy Griffith’s “Trouble in the Fields.” Additionally there is a great cover of Feist’s “Gatekeeper,” giving vocalist Maggie Delaney-Pothoff a chance to shine. “You’ve Changed” and “There Will Never Be Another You” reflect a more traditional jazz approach, the latter pairing the trio with Thimming and Miller and featuring some nifty soloing.
Original tunes include Sims’ humorous opener “Peace of Mind” which toys with the Beatles’ line from “I’m So Tired” and includes this hilarious verse: Yesterday I drove an Escalade / I was the star of my own show / Today I’m drinkin’ 40s / in the graveyard with my bro. This is the kind of playful charm we expect from Harmonious Wail and they never seem to be in want of a zinger. Another Sims’ tune, Things That Go,” features the guitar work of Bergara who delivers a ripping solo while the guitar/mandolin interplay is vintage Wail. Bergara also shines on the reworking of Nanine Garcia’s “Paquilo.”
Maggie also penned a couple of winners; the title track which features a Bohemian Chorus of backup singers, and “The Money Song.” Maggie’s singing is the icing on the cake for Harmonious Wail. Excellent tone, phrasing and expression make her one of the finest singers to ever come out of Madison.
Classy, witty and delivered with excellent musicianship, Bohemian Tango is a genuine joy to listen to. And you have to love a band who lists porch board and scissors in its arsenal of musical weapons. Maggie sums it up best on the final stanza of the final track: There will never, ever be another Wail.