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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Gypsy Lumberjacks

Pulling Upon the Strap

Review by Gary Hill

This is quite a cool release. It’s got a lot of ties to an older world of folk music and more. Still, there are some modern elements at play, too. While everything here lives in a similar sort of musical world, there is still a lot of variety within that soundscape. The disc is steeped in traditional music, but still vibrant and new. It’s a very strong set.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
Chica Fria

I really like this opener. There are some bits of found sound kind of spoken elements in the mix on a lot of the song. The music is percussion heavy, but also melodic. The blend of sounds has world music, folk and soft rock in it. The sung sections are particularly soulful and powerful. I can’t imagine a better opener here.

Ploughman's Blues
While the musical arrangement here might not be as creative as the opener, this song is more powerful. The vocal performance really drives this one to the stratosphere. Musically it has that same folk music meets world and soft rock sound. The vocal arrangement is almost like The Band but turbocharged. This is a killer tune.
Waltz of Bones
The vocals also sell this number. It’s a slower piece that’s even more old world related musically. It’s a classy tune and the tempo change is a positive for the album.
Blaenau Ffestiniog
This bouncy little instrumental is very Celtic in nature. It’s fun.
Caspian's March
Another instrumental, world music, classical and more seem to merge here. There is a middle Eastern vibe and I’m a sucker for that sound, so this benefits in my book from that. The percussion is exceptional here, too.
Miner's Dross
This is a bit different. It’s just more of a pure folk song. It’s not quite as magical as some of the other stuff, though. The arrangement just lacks the punch of everything else.
Elephant's Underwear
There are some hints of country music here. I can also make out some zydeco. This is an energetic number with a pretty dynamic structure and arrangement. It’s more of a rocker than a lot of the other stuff. It’s also very effective.
The arrangement here is even more involved and dynamic. It wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to call this “progressive music.” It’s got a complex song structure and a lot of growth. Yet the music combines bluegrass, folk and other old time musical sounds. The vocal arrangement is quite powerful and really pushes it over the top in terms of quality and power.
What You Wanted Here
This is a bit of a change. It has a real Island vibe. Of course, it still qualifies to be labeled the same as world music meets folk and soft rock. I love the rubbery bass line on this. Still, it’s the vocals that really knock this out of the park. It’s another great song and some variety.
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