Gypsy Soul,
Beneath the Covers: A Rediscovery
(Off the Beaten Track, 2007)

After more than 10 years of recording and touring, selling more than 100,000 copies of their eight albums (and 1.5 million downloads) and appearing on a number of soundtracks -- all without a major record deal -- the husband-and-wife duo of Roman Morykit (instrumentals) and Cilette Swann (vocals), otherwise known as Gypsy Soul, has produced Beneath the Covers: A Rediscovery.

The album applies the band's Celtic/folk/Americana sound to covers of seven hits by an eclectic range of artists including U2, The Moody Blues, Stevie Wonder and John Denver.

With such an intriguing premise and the band's impeccable credentials, how could you lose? And yet, I found the result a mixed bag.

In some cases, the covers work. Their version of "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is a great opener and takes an almost literal interpretation on the song, sounding like they're actually on a back road searching for what they lost rather than mimicking the existential gospel lament of the original. And, I'll be honest, I was prepared to hate "Superstition" -- no one messes with Stevie! -- but it actually was quite good, with a sort-of low-key, contemplative vibe about it.

Other covers, however, aren't as successful. "Wicked Game" is an intense, smoldering and almost sinister song when sung by Chris Isaak; Gypsy Soul, however, performs it with an astonishing -- almost depressing -- lack of passion. And the band's interpretation of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," which sounds quite like a lullaby, falls just short of its mark. (Maybe it's the lyrics. Somehow, "misty taste of moonshine" just doesn't sound right in Swann's violin string of a voice.)

The band intersperses a few originals among the covers, but again, the outcome is hit-or-miss. "Lovin' Me" is a bluesy little ditty with a Leon Redbone-style guitar riff that's the best cut on the disc. "One Thing," however, follows the Beatles' "Blackbird" and sounds a little too much like its predecessor, while "Silver Lining" -- the final song on the album -- clocks in at five minutes with an aimless melody and lyrics like "Every day is a blessing / Every breath is a gift / Every heartache's a lesson / Every choice is a risk / Every child is a promise." Not a memorable way to end what could have been a fascinating album.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Melissa Kashner

22 November 2008

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