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The Vagaband

Medicine for the Soul – 2014 (Eggsong)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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It's evident by now that Americana isn't limited to... well, America. For decades now, artists from such far flung environs as Europe, Australia and the U.K. have demonstrated their affinity and appreciation for the traditional roots rock regimen, a sound which had its origins in the late '60s and early '70s echoes of Southern California. One such outfit is the British eight-piece ensemble The Vagaband.

Based in Norfolk England, the band released their debut "Town & Country" in 2013 and immediately garnered rave reviews, including designation as one of the "Top 20 New Roots Bands of Europe." "Medicine for the Soul," released on their own Eggsongs Records label, will likely find them earning even more critical kudos, given that it expands their rural regimen to include flugelhorn, clarinet, trombone and cello from the standard set-up consisting of banjo, fiddle, pedal steel and mandolin.

For that reason alone, any attempt to typecast The Vagaband may prove futile. While certain songs hold to a back porch palette - the down home ramble "Black Sheep," the loping title track and the jaunty "The Whistling Song" in particular - other tracks move them into a kind of vaudeville and show time territory. The carnival-like "Ten Bells Waltz" and the ragtime revelry of "Cisco Wine" reflect a versatility that's especially impressive for a band that's just now releasing its sophomore set. Indeed, their ambitions are obvious; on the offering entitled "A Town With No Name," they take a turn into theatrical terrain inspired by composers Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.

Given this versatility, the lyric from opener "Lifted" seems particularly prophetic: "These dancing days don't last for long/I don't know where I'm bound but I know where I belong..." As long as they're willing to pursue their muse, that ultimate destination ought to be equally inspired.