The Walter Bodega Band,
The Walter Bodega Band
(self-produced, 1998)

This self-titled debut CD from a Vancouver Island, British Columbia-based band features a sunny, upbeat and eclectic sound that, for the most part, serves it well.

The Walter Bodega Band is Clark Brendon, bass and vocals; Russ Godfrey on mandolin and vocals; Mike Nicholls on percussion and vocals; Jonty Parker-Jervis on violin and vocals, and Bruce Rathie, guitar and vocals. Godfrey, Parker-Jervis, and Brendon composed several of the tracks as well.

The lively opening double stops of the first track, the traditional "The Sugarfoot Congress," get the album off to a sparkling start. Parker-Jervis's violin and Godfrey's mandolin are crisp and clear and balance each other perfectly, and a percussive tambourine counterpoint gives it a bright sound. The whole piece is infectious -- you just want to get up and move.

Instrumental and vocal tracks alternate, and the second track is a song, "You and I," about wanting to stay home from work and bum around town or the world with someone special: "If I had my way / That's what I'd do / Travel the world / Me and you." The actual title never comes into play, but such vagaries aside, the lyrics are just about playing -- and that's just what the music does. The upbeat tempo features Parker-Jervis's violin laughing in the background and that brisk tambourine again, and the song sounds tailor-made for a crowd to sing along to while dancing.

Next up is "Dark Eyes" by Godfrey and Parker-Jervis, and the melody is a lovely lilting duet between mandolin and violin which seems to draw on a variety of musical styles -- traditional, jazz, a bit of swing -- and was inspired by Godfrey's wife, Irene. It's followed by a "road" song, "Drivin' on 9," which leans a little toward country, although not too much. It's a laidback traveling song that captures the feeling of driving through the night along the highway, and the rolling beat reflects the rhythm of the road.

"March of the Dogs" by Godfrey follows, and this may be a case of the title wagging the tune, but I had an instant image of a stream of dogs trotting down the road, filling it from side to side, processing through the center of town, maintaining a certain dignity in spite of lolling tongues and wagging tails. "Changin' Lanes" by Brendon lends a somber note; beginning with the captivating line "I won't let the TV watch me any more tonight," it's about the aftermath of a relationship and the confusion that it brings. A driving violin line maintains an optimistic note in throughout the ranging emotions expressed in the lyrics, and the pace of the album doesn't slow down at all.

Next up is a pair of lively original tunes by Godfrey, "Galloping Goose/Beef to the Heel," and if they don't at least make you bounce in your chair a bit, then check your pulse -- you may need medical attention.

The final track is "Dirty Old Town," and this choice is the one slightly off selection on the album. The band's vocals and harmonies are excellent, but their sound is too smooth and pretty and veers a little close to country to really do the song justice if you're used to a harder, rougher sound. It sounds more like a slightly grubby old town. On the other hand, it grows on you the more you listen to it.

At 25 minutes and 49 seconds, this CD leaves you hungry for more, but that can be remedied temporarily by putting your CD player on continuous play; this music does not get old in a hurry. I have a hunch that the Walter Bodega Band (named for an intersection, not a person, apparently) would be awesome live; if you're not in their area, then the CD is a worthwhile alternative.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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