Wooden Wand Gipsy Freedom (and The Vanishing Voice)

[5RC; 2006]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: freak folk, noisy commune jam sessions
Others: Ya Ho Wha 13, No Neck Blues Band, Feathers, Six Organs of Admittance

WWVV can't get any freer--or can they? The collective has visited every inch of terrain folk allows, so how can James Toth (aka Wand Jehovah) take this loose band of musical frontiersmen anywhere that they haven't seen? The answer is, he can't.

Gipsy Freedom is the product of Toth stepping out of the limelight and pushing the cast of wacky characters to the forefront. The music transforms instantaneously, and with the help of Daniel Carter, the band gravitates towards a broader sound that lends as much to jazz as it does to twisted folk jingles. The album's sprawling opener, "Friend, That Just Isn't So," unfolds slowly through the malaise of traditional jazz. The saxophone and vocal-centric track has class and style, and it may mark the first time anyone's been able to drop names such as Lester Young, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker when describing the sound of a Wooden Wand track. Heidi Diehl's vocals are haunting, and away from spastic folk, they only shine brighter. Maynard G. Krebs will have plenty of reasons to snap his fingers.

The follow-up, "Didn't it Rain?", bucks the smooth jazz for the more traditional Wooden Wand experiment of sonic reduction and oddly tuned guitars. But if you remain patient, Diehl and Carter bust through to deliver one last jazz-tinged tribute while the band slowly envelopes them whole. The combination of free form and fusion continues in spirit during the wacky "Sun Sets on Clarion." Sounds percolate and oscillate to create yet another unclassifiable genre only The Vanishing Voice could re-create. Of course, Gipsy Freedom wouldn't be a Wooden Wand album without a touch of straight-up freak folk ("Dread Effigy") or a cartoonish 20-minute jam ("Dead End Days with Ceasar").

Whether channeling jazz giants or forgotten jam band pioneers, WWVV continue to sprout before our eyes with little growing pains--Gipsy Freedom being the end of their first noticeable growth spurt. Sonically, WWVV has never been better. The collective is able to transform a love for all things musical into a meandering, but somehow focused, ball of energy.

1. Friend, That Just Isn't So
2. Didn't It Rain?
3. Don't Love the Liar
4. Hey Pig, He Stole My Sound
5. Sun Sets on Clarion
6. Dread Effigy
7. Dead End Days with Caesar
8. Genesis Joplin

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