David DiGiuseppe, |
(Azalea City, 2002)
There is not nearly enough accordion music in this country. Capable of great range and subtlety, used in folk music around the world, it been relegated in American pop culture to a gag instrument, suitable only for commanding monkeys and dancing polkas. David DiGiuseppe puts the accordion in its proper place with Movin' On.
Movin On' opens with the medley "Gan Aimn/Cleveland Park/Harpo Creek," which seems designed to flaunt the powers of the accordion. It hops cheerfully from tune to tune, covering a wide range of musical styles without ever losing its stability. The album settles a little with the "Gypsy Waltz," taking a slower, more romantic air, with some patient backup from Joseph Sobol's guitar.
There's almost an embarrassment of variety on this album. "Seamus Cooley's Jig/Rolling Waves/Blue Jig" alone goes from a piano lifted from a Western bar scene to deceptively calm, resigned accordion, before sliding into a wordless sea shanty and finally dancing its way into a smoky blues bar. Accordion may seem an odd instrument for the blues, but here it knocks harmonica and guitar straight out of the water.
"Catharsis/The Crazy Flutist/Stomach Steinway Man" has an urgent, almost confrontational tone that energizes better than five pots of coffee. There are enough traditional-sounding tunes to satisfy fans of the old school, like the unmistakably French "Brise Picard" and wonderful jig medley of "The Bear Fire/Jig of Fives/Cedar Island." But modern flavors like blues and rock in tunes like "Blue Jig," "Spy Rock" and "Baghdad Bully" make Movin' On a new contribution to the world of the accordion, instead of just a homage to its established history.
Besides the wonderful variety of reels, jigs, waltzes and wordless sonnets, there are four vocal tracks. Two, "Windmill" and "Just Like John Barleycorn," are wonderful pieces of poetry, with catchy tunes and an even, hypnotic melodic flow. "Hamlet Wreck," besides having a confusing title, has a repetitive chorus that shows up much too often, a problem that also plagues the thoughtful "Any Spare Change." None of these songs are unpleasant or intrusive, but DiGiuseppe's decision to trade in his passionate accordion for his much quieter vocals makes them musically weak compared to the rest of the album. The cittern is a fine instrument, but can't replace an accordion played this well.
While DiGiuseppe's accordion is clearly the star of the album, Movin' On features a parade of supporting players. These supporting players change every other track and bring a little of their own touch to each tune without taking away from the unified feel of the album. All make a huge difference in their chosen tune without overwhelming DiGiuseppe's accordion. "Tea For Three/It's a Boy/Old Bell Cow" would be only a pleasant, traditional sort of tune without the schmaltz and style added by Pete Campbell's piano. It's a treat to hear so many skilled musicians working together, and works to highlight the versatility of the accordion.
If you like accordion music, you probably already have a copy of Movin' On. If you think you don't like accordion music, Movin' On will show you the error of your ways.