The Roving Crows – Bacchanalia

Dear Roving Crows – Where have you been all my life?

OK, I see you only formed in 2009. Is that even possible? How in the heck do you weave such distinct sounds from jazz, western swing, and blues through your classic Celtic folk foundation when your band is practically in its musical infancy?

Clearly, you’re all incredible musicians. Paul O’Neil’s sparkling guitar playing, Gregory Wilson-Copp’s Dixieland Jazz-spirited trumpet, and Tim Tolhurst’s vibrant percussion are all first-rate. I have to admit, though, that it’s Caitlin Barrett’s fiddle that stole my heart and kept me around for the whole album. Her playing is so masterful, whether it’s leading or highlighting a tune that it tends to steal the spotlight in several songs.

But I digress.

On your new album “Bacchanalia” you dip into all kinds of musical genres starting with “Long Time Dead.” Can we be honest? When I first heard this Dixieland Jazz number, I wasn’t really into it. There’s no doubt it’s a beautifully played song, but it’s a Dixieland Jazz gem. That’s just not my thing. I stuck around, though, because I heard and loved the fiddle on that track.

Of course I realize that the fiddle isn’t everyone’s thing either. And some folks adore Dixieland Jazz. The point I’m making is that by starting the album with two strong Dixieland numbers, it sets up expectations on both sides of the aisle.

As a not-huge-Dixieland-fan-type, failing to listen to the entire album would have been my loss. For those that really prefer Dixieland, stopping the music when heavy-duty Dixieland ends would be a shame, too, for other reasons.

To me, when you toned down the Dixieland influences on subsequent tracks, your music really blossomed. Consider “Roll on Tomorrow.” Sure, there is Dixieland sound aplenty on that track, but it’s mixed with a super-sized dollop of folk by way of fiddles and harmony. To my ear, that makes it a more interesting tune.

It’s when you get to “White Petticoat,” where Barrett and her fiddle are set free, the old-time Dixie-folk infused “That Was Then,” and the jazzy-blues-folk soaked “Woman After My Own Heart” that lightly sprinkles trumpet through the piece that your band really shines. And did I mention that “President Garfield,” is truly a folk triumph thanks to the arrangement that marries fiddle and trumpet and drums as equal partners?

Everybody is entitled to occasionally lean heavily toward one genre or another when they’re dabbling in the incredibly challenging world of musical fusion. Even just working in fusion is cause for celebration because it lures fans of other formats into the party.

Not everyone loves fiddle. Or trumpet. Or Dixieland. Or blues. But when you unite disparate sounds, as you do so beautifully on so many tracks, some of us purists are lured in and want to stay and explore. I sure do!

So nice to meet you, Roving Crows. I look forward to hearing much more from you as we move ahead. NANCY DUNHAM

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Artist web link: www.rovingcrows.com