Monday, April 18, 2016

Victor & Penny: “Electricity” (2016) CD Review

Victor & Penny is the project of Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane, which they started in 2010, combining folk and jazz elements to create a wonderful old-time sound. But though the music has a certain nostalgic “retro” quality, most of these tunes are actually originals, written by Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane, and they have a life of their own rather than being an attempt to create some sort of idealized past. Jeff is on vocals and guitar; Erin is on vocals and ukulele. They are backed by The Loose Change Orchestra: James Isaac on clarinet, saxophone and melodica; Rick Willoughby on bass; and Kyle Dalhquist on trombone. And joining them are Dustin Ransom on piano, organ, accordion and mandolin; and Paton Goskie on violin.

The opening track, “Day Off Boogie” is a fun, light, playful song about putting off the chores to engage in more worthwhile activities. There is a nice instrumental section, and of course we have the classic comparison to food, with lines like “If it’s sugar you want, honey, that’s what I’ve got” and “Honey, you know I love your cooking a lot.” And whatever it is they’re doing, they know it will “give the neighbors a thrill.” Nice. There are more bright, happy sounds on the CD’s title track, “Electricity.” Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Proximity/Ooh, the nearness is thrilling me/You’re pulling magnetically/And I can’t breathe/For love, for love, for love.” Things get even more fun with “Penny’s Pounce,” a totally delightful instrumental number. This is one of my favorite tracks, and if it doesn’t get you dancing, it will at least get you smiling. (Maybe I’m crazy, but I could imagine Figrin D’an And The Modal Nodes covering this song.) Check out that great bass part.

Victor & Penny then slow things down with a sweeter-sounding tune, “Hide. Seek.” But that sweetness can be a bit misleading, for this song is certainly no gushy love song, with lines like “You spill your story/Spring a leak/Keep your secrets/Hide seek” and “Fast sled, too steep” (a line I particularly like). That is followed by the album’s only cover, a wonderful rendition of Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street.” While the original already had a very cool, jazzy style, this rendition by Victor & Penny gives the tune an old European gypsy band vibe, which is great. Jeff is on lead vocal duties for this one, taking the perspective of that less-than-innocent denizen of the night. And I love Erin’s backing vocals. Ah, those vampires of New Orleans sound so sexy and suave.

“Rickshaw Chase” is delightfully goofy, especially in the way its only line, “It’s a rickshaw chase,” is shouted out, as if by a crowd of dancers on an off-Broadway stage. This one is a lot of fun, and is quite catchy. And then “Say Goodbye” is a wonderful, kind of strange and creepy, slow tune. Check out these lines: “We can bury the hurt/In that soft red dirt/And pretend we’ll never have to say goodbye/Time doesn’t always ease the pain/Just because it’s passing/And love doesn’t come to stay/Just because we’re asking/Some songs hurt more than others, love/And nothing stays the same.” Those are some great lyrics. And that instrumental section has a haunting quality. This song was written by Erin McGrane, Jeff Freling and Cody Wyoming.

Electricity concludes with “You’re A Revelation,” which asks the question, “What’s the difference between/What is real and a dream/What is, and what seems to be?” I don’t have the answer. Do you?

CD Track List
  1. Day Off Boogie
  2. Electricity
  3. Penny’s Pounce
  4. Hide. Seek.
  5. Moon Over Bourbon Street
  6. Rickshaw Chase
  7. Say Goodbye
  8. More In Store
  9. Overtones
  10. You’re A Revelation
Electricity is scheduled to be released on May 6, 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great review, Michael! Cheers, Jeff + Erin (Victor & Penny)