Published on November 9th, 2014 | by Mike Ainscoe0
THE VAGABAND – ‘MEDICINE FOR THE SOUL’
Having discovered the vibrant Norfolk music scene with the enjoyable James Frost EP, the floodgates have well and truly opened! The Vagaband are a UK 8 piece based in the region and sound as far from what you’d imagine from the ‘Wales of the West’ as you can imagine. In fact, head West for a couple of thousand miles and you’ll arrive in the Americana swing and ragtime blues land from which their sound takes its inspiration.
Their rootsy blend conjures up visions of the promised land all accompanied by elements of vaudeville and Victoriana – in fact of times gone by, all imagined in sepia and lonesome gunslingers in western saloons. Initially upbeat and goodtime with all manner of pedal steel and mandolin, the record soon evolves into a more reflective journey of optimistic song and darker tales of drunks and troubled souls in dead end towns ending up in quite a sombre finale in ‘Cisco Wine’ and ‘A Different Drum’. ‘Black Sheep’ has the typical banjo and jaws harp and is all Beverly Hillbillies hoe down and the whistle of railroads rolling across the plains, whereas their cover of ‘Gabrielle’ written by 90’s alt-rock duo, Ween, is all blazing fiddles and a sneering Dylan vocal.
The title track itself seems to be the key to the album; a song in homage to late Texan songwriter Townes Van Zandt. It has that widescreen cinematic arrangement which brings to mind the endless travelling road of the lone troubadour.
Bringing the album to a close, and pretty much at the end of a long and arduous journey, is the appropriately titled ‘Town With No Name’ – a jazzy and sleazy evocation of the darker side of life – almost reaching into Bugsy Malone gangster territory of the early twentieth century . Perhaps the best compliment to pay The Vagaband is that they conjure up a world far removed from ‘Norfolk Nights’ and are rooted firmly in Americana which they inhabit to effect.