I’ve only been to New Jersey once, but I did live for several years in the city of New Orleans, La. I have to say, people must be stirring up some especially spicy gumbo on the Jersey shore these days – because I can barely remember a group of troubadours down in the bayou country who served up this much fun. I mean, these guys… cook. They call themselves The Wandering Bards and their new album Party Hat continues their unique blend of folk, zydeco, funk, blues, and vaudeville – all with just a pinch of irony. Their energy steams out of the stove-pot so heavily one is at first not certain how seriously they should be taken, until one discovers just how serious their musicianship really is. I mean… seeeee-rious.
Lead vocalist Kenny Allen (who at times sounds like an indie-fied Randy Newman) not only sings, but also plays harmonica, kazoo, accordion, melodica, musical saw, and jaw harp. Back him up with an extremely gifted ensemble of well-dressed vagabonds who are willing to toss just about anything into the JAM-balaya (upright bass, stringed instruments of various kinds, violin, zydeco tie?!) – and you got yo-self a smokin’ stomp-fest.
While their approach is eclectic, don’t be miss-led into thinking they’re merely a novelty act. In fact, the Bards songs feature enough artistic sensibilities that music lovers from a broad spectrum of interests could easily develop a taste for them. Songs such as “Wild Rovin’ Rose” and “Moods of the Ocean” have a subtle moodiness that keeps the listener on a casual ingestion pace to savor the raw and melodic riffs supplied in generous portions. Fans of everyone from Blues Traveler, Captain Beefheart, Dave Matthews, Lost Dogs, or even Jamie Cullem would likely feel very pleased to wander with these bards.
If you do happen to wander with them (which I would highly recommend), just plan on your experience being a bit more of a party than it would be with the aforementioned artists.
Oh – and remember to bring a hat.
Go experience The Wandering Bards for yourself at:
-review by Francis Itch of indie Band Guru