Generally speaking, when you sit down to listen to a song, the individual instrumental elements are right there in the forefront jumping out at you. ‘nice voice on the singer… Oh there’s the guitar solo… man, them drums is loud…’ But every once in awhile a band comes together in such mellifluous harmony that the actual sounds meld together to form one singular theme. When guitars, rhythms vocals and lyrics all transcend their respective roles and fuse together into a complete musical motif (pardon pun), that is when it becomes all about the song. And on Vudu Sister’s freshman CD release “Bastard Children”, it’s clearly all about the song.
Vudu Sister is the collective name for singer-songwriter brainchild Keith McCurdy and a varied roster of accompanying musicians, including drummer Alexander Garzone and some lovely harmony vocals from Kate Jones. Though a relatively new act on the scene, Vudu Sister have already established themselves as earnest artistic alchemist who have combined elements of traditional folk, Appalachian mountain music, depression era protest songs , Celtic sounds, and a heaping scoop of modern alternative sensibilities. The result is a painfully heartfelt, often dark and beautifully disturbing music that may not win over any Justin Biber fans anytime soon, but will immediately sound both familiar and fresh to those of us in-the-know.
Throughout the 10 offerings on Bastard Children, Keith McCurdy’s guitar picking and singing serves as a droning constant that appropriately sets the mood for this deceivingly simple stripped down music. McCurdy works in a voice born from such disparate singers as David Van Ronk, Woody Guthrie, and Jack White. Though he sometimes flirts with his pitch, he does so in deference to the genre. And perhaps most importantly his lyrics and song structure demonstrate an obvious understanding of this genre, which can often leave less-schooled artists sounding like a bad parody.
Bastard Children opens with the dirge “Psalms”, a battleground shanty that speaks of mourn and lament. With a plaintive bass drum punctuating the accompanying dobro and mandolin, McCurdy plays and sings in a manner that puts me in the mind of Dylan’s “Masters of War”: “Can you hear the dead bell tolling, can you hear the five man drum, can you hear the death bell ringing in the deep…”
With its dark, sardonic storyline, standout track “Dead Man’s Pocket” is perhaps the best single example of what Vudu Sister is all about. “Somebody out there done hit him – with the blood on his hands still stained – he covered his tracks and he stole what was left inside of the dead mans pockets..”
I’m looking forward to revisiting Keith McCurdy et al when their next project is released. With the level of maturity already displayed on Bastard Children, it won’t be long before these guys become the stewards of the entire roots scene, in New England in beyond.
Vudu Sister will be joined by an all star lineup Friday, May 4, at Local121 inProvidencefor their CD Release.