A dynamic romp of jazz and blues
With their latest album, Sugar Drops, Davina and the Vagabonds keep alive an old tradition of New Orleans jazz by updating it with the occasional fresh pop influence. In the first track on the album, Davina sings, “I’ll do what I can to make you fall in love with me,” and that song alone is enough to make you fall in love with Davina and the Vagabond’s unique sound.
The album begins with “Bone Collection,” a sharp take on New Orleans jazz complete with a clarinet solo. Davina’s voice is cool and comfortable. The whole song puts you at ease with crisp horns and lilting beat. The clarinet is charming and laid-back and exactly what the song needs, leaving you to wonder why you don’t hear more clarinet solos in general.
The next song on the album takes a surprising and joyful turn. Where “Bone Collection” introduces you to Davina’s chops playing the sounds of New Orleans, “I Can’t Believe I let You Go” puts a pop song in their hands. The beats strong emphasis on two and four, the terse bassline and Davina’s more playful lyrics all call to mind current-day pop songs. That isn’t a bad thing either; if anything, their range of styles that the band can play is impressive. Despite the song’s pop influences, it isn’t cookie-cutter or inauthentic. They still utilize the rich horn section that brightens the band’s sound and is one of its most exciting features. Only two songs into this album and the most refreshing part are the solos. “I Can’t Believe I let You Go” concludes with a great trumpet solo played by Zach Lozier and “Bone Collection” gives their clarinet player the chance to noodle over the changes.
In fact, one of this album’s most enjoyable features is the space it gives each of its musicians to showcase their talent and personality. “Devil Horns” features a groovy syncopated drum beat that makes you dance and a dueling horn feature that had to be as much fun to play as it is to listen to. “Devil Horns” is Davina and the Vagabonds at their strongest, highlighting the skill of everyone in the band and showing off their varied knowledge of genres and styles. Davina’s voice is spirited and energetic, the drumming is solid and complex and the horns sound fat and crisp.
Davina Sowers is really the heart of the band. Her voice is filled with personality and enormously flexible. Her voice is rich and full on the gentler “Deep End” and remains expressive when she is belting out on “Sugar Drops.” Zack Lozier and Steve Rogness accompany her on trumpet and trombone, respectively. They match her personality with great, punchy horn parts that fill out the bands sound.
Among their great dance tunes, Davina and the Vagabonds leave room for more thoughtful lyrics, as well. “This voice is mine, not yours” Davina sings in “Little Miss Moonshine,” which is certainly true for someone with as unique a voice and style as Davina. Davina and the Vagabonds bring vivacity to this genre that makes you wonder why we’re not all listening to this kind of music more regularly.