Hailing from the Twin Cities, Davina and the Vagabonds is apparently one of the hardest working bands in that area, combining the vocals and piano of Davina Sowers with an intriguing line-up of trumpet, trombone, bass and drums. Inspirations include blues, traditional New Orleans jazz and cabaret that have made them in demand for a variety of musical festivals. John Hammer has labelled their sound “hot jazz-blues-cabaret-soul-lounge-rock,” a label seems apt to this writer, particularly after listening to their 4th CD (first to these ears) is “Black Cloud” on Roustabout Records, that has Ms. Sowers joined by Michael Carvale’s bass, Darren Sterud’s trombone, Connor McRae’s drums, and Dan Eikmeer’s trumpet on a program of Ms. Sowers’ originals.
After a brief raucous opening “Vagabond Stomp,” the title track, “Black Cloud” with Davina’s forceful vocal on a performance comes off like a Brecht pastiche, followed by the pop flavored “Disappears,” with Sterud taking a blustery trombone solo with plenty as she displays her clean articulation of her lyrics as well as plays. “Start Runnin” starts as she slowly warns someone to step up or start running because otherwise Davina is gonna make a mess of her going for a slow march to a breakneck tempo with nice muted trumpet from Eikmeer with rollicking piano from Davina.
Its typical of the tone of much of this album as Davina sounds theatrical and/or campy one song such as “Start Runnin, and then comes off like an innocent lovestruck girl on the lovely ballad, Sugar Moon. The theatrical flavor of Pushpin, contrasts with the rollicking Crescent City grooves of Lipstick Chrome, as he shouts “nothing could go wrong” as the band answers with "nothing." Davina takes a nice piano solo here on a performance that would be home on the stage at dba’s or The Spotted Cat. It is followed by a lovely soul ballad River, where she sings wistfully about doing her lover wrong. Sterud’s muted trombone solo adds some appropriate coloring behind her vocal.
“Black Cloud” is a marvelously entertaining recording that is well sung and well played. Maybe some moments are a bit too cute (which may be a consequence of there approach after all), and perhaps she might lighten her vocals on an occasion. But that its perhaps getting a bit too analytical as opposed to simply enjoying the fun and pleasures that Davina and the Vagabonds bring. They may be hard to classify as to musical genre, but they are very easy to listen to and enjoy. Their website is http://www.davinaandthevagabonds.com/ which links to itunes.
My review copy was provided by a publicist.