29 May 2016

Mumbo-Jumbo: Sonic Gumbo

If you are one of those thousands of Mumbo-Jumbo fans across the country who have seen them live, danced your socks off, laughed at all the ad-libbed jokes and partied till you dropped, then prepare yourself. Their new album Sonic Gumbo leaves out the ad-libs!

What the album does, with some skill, is not only leave its mark as a lot of fun but more importantly demonstrates what great writers and musicians have gathered together in this powerful and tight trio. The Gumbo of the title is, of course, a very tasty Louisiana mash-up of stew with vegetables and either meat or shell-fish...and musically, this is what we get – a fascinating mix of thirteen self-penned  tracks that take us from the up-and-jumping to the delicate-and-sensitive via, quite literally, The Absurd.

Opening with a storming wryly-worded crowd-pleaser 'Second Hand Guitar Dealer', you immediately get a taste of the talent involved in this production, while Phil Bond flays the whole span of keyboard and Oliver Carpenter's distinctive mariarchi trumpet soars above it, they are smartly pushed along by Chris Lomas's defining rhythmic back line. This is a band where everyone is good and everyone gets a go – and rightly so.

The mood changes with 'Sail That Ship' where Carpenter's lyrical growl works its magic over the top of the most simple and mesmeric piano and guitar arpeggio riff and then smartly ups the tempo with 'The Absurd Song' which does exactly what it says on the comic tin...

'Those Frail Few' is a beautiful and delicate piece about old soldiers across the world and the arrangement here is sublime with a resonate accordion counterpointed with some farewell and call-to-arms trumpet. The lyrics here are crucial and the whole subtle piece is very reminiscent of Randy Newman in one of his more serious and powerful moments. 'Rejoice' is a cheery nod to Bobby McFerrin's 'Be Happy', complete with cheerful whistle and then they all break out into 'Hosedown', an amusing reflection on being old, which is another opportunity to hear them all at Force 10 being led along by Phil Bond's rolling and rattling keys...it will be difficult not to throw away your zimmer frame when this one comes on.......

A major departure is 'No Devil at The Crossroads' where Oliver's smart vocals spell out a cynical view of the devil's likely response to rubbish music - an entertaining piece greatly augmented by his muted trumpet. 'Taking You Back; is another interesting lyric about returning to your roots, this time accompanied by an irresistible reggae beat.

However, 'Hold On' is the unknown constituent in this Gumbo. A trance-like, mainly instrumental piece,  led by an unrelenting bass line, it is a curious track which, although unlikely to be a live performance number, is a compulsive listen - full of moving cadences, a vocal chorus fill and a certain sadness.

The final tracks, 'Too Many Days' and 'The Final Encore' are straight back to the no-messing talented stompin' and hollerin' rockabilly-and-everything-else band who turn up under your window and refuse to go away until you come out and dance and join in the chorus.

This is a wonderful entertaining album, overflowing with tight solid talent and some terrific insightful song-writing. If you've never tried high quality gumbo, you don't have to go Louisiana. It's all here, hot, interesting, full of amazing ingredients, put together by proper musicians - kick-arse entertainment with many liberal dashes of flair, humour and originality. Go get.