Moira Smiley & VOCO,
(independent, 2006)

VOCO calls itself "a fiery roots vocal band making new song as it pulls on roots and Appalachian harmony and rhythm." The band mixes traditional and original songs, and these five singers -- four women and one man -- are only backed by cello, one or two banjos, body percussion and the occasional clarinet, accordion and electronics. Of the 17 cuts, there are originals, American folk, Croatian and Hungarian, and body percussion numbers, the latter all a minute or so long.

This is an eclectic group that sounds different on nearly every track. On "Firecracker Girl," they vocalize in the mode of Manhattan Transfer. The a cappella "Utopia" sounds like a Renaissance vocal. There are haunting vocal renditions of American folk songs like "The Dying Californian" and originals that sound like folk such as "Stand in the River," accompanied by banjo. The Eastern European songs are identified by their melodies, tending towards melancholy.

There are unique tracks like "Dance, S'loyfn, S'Yogn,"a Yiddish tune featuring cello, banjo and intricate vocal harmonies. "Bartok #148" has classical scat singing (if there is such a thing). The beautiful "Deep Blue," the longest track at nearly five minutes, has fast vocal leads that almost sound like rap, although they never give up melody.

Even without their imagination, the wonderful singing and arrangements would make this a top-notch CD. But in a musical world where too many artists sound alike, Blink should be at the top of the list for those who appreciate groups that have a vision for their music.

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review by
Dave Howell

16 June 2007

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