Free Inside
(Wyndfall, 2002)

I have to wonder about the cover art, which makes the CD look like a package of lunch meat. But Gypsophilia launches its second album, Free Inside, with a dramatic version of "Raggle Taggle Gypsies," a traditional English song reinvented as a true gypsy song. This full arrangement, with a full complement of vocals, is definitely exotic.

The band is Scott Robinson on English tenor concertina, vocals and percussion, Claudia Hall on violin and vocals, and Alfred Goodrich on cello, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, mandolin, percussion and vocals. Guest musicians are Hoagy Wing on darabukka and percussion, Shannon Coulter on vocals, Deborah Justice on hammered dulcimer, Joe Brown on drums and Stephen Wise on didgeridoo. (The band's previous CD, Occidentally on Purpose, did not include vocals.)

The music evokes an image of colorful caravans and the scent of strange spices with its blend of original pieces and traditional works from Greece, Turkey, Bosnia, Spain and more. The music often goes in directions my Western ears don't expect, but an exciting difference it is. "Ale Brider/Buhosher Khosid," a traditional Jewish medley, has a celebratory tone, while Robinson's "Byzantium" -- distinctly Middle Eastern, though inspired by the writing of Irish poet W.B. Yeats -- has a ceremonial mien.

"My Heart Teaches Me," also by Robinson, is a lengthy profession of faith -- the music is inspired by Turkish and Pakisatni Sufi music, the words from Psalm 116, the Book of Isiah and the Gospel of Luke. "Lowlands," a traditional Scottish song, sounds anything but Scottish in this stark interpretation.

Only Robinson's "Song of Hannah" grates a bit on my ears. The vocals are powerful but sound more operatic than I can enjoy.

Overall, it's a great collection of music that breaks down walls and cross boundaries around the world. The musicianship of this band is so excellent, they're worth checking out no matter what style they're exploring.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 29 November 2003