A Review of the CDs
"Live At The ZMF" & "Airborne"
by Harmonious Wail

"Live At The ZMF"
copyright 1997-BUFF0339

copyright 1993-BUFF80239

Harmonious Wail
P.O. Box 14033
Madison, WI 53714
ph: (608)-221-3966
fax: (608)-221-9039

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 7/99
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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It's the sound, and what a sound it is--a mixture of swing, jazz, solo singing and vocal harmonies, with a touch of blues and scat peeking out every now and then. Such is Harmonious Wail, a group preserving and presenting a multitude of musical styles from the 30s, 40s and 50s. With the Wail, their words and lyrics are not the focus. The overall sound--whether it be the combination of vocals blended primarily with mandolin, guitar and bass, just outright instrumentals or a blend of instruments--is the centerpiece. The full effect is a fingersnapping, toe-tapping, energetic, rousing display that really should get scientists investigating its usage as an alternative to anti-depressants. An opportunity is being missed here.

What the Wail also does is deftly feature clarinet, fiddle, flute and pedal steel, in addition to the aforementioned mainstays, mandolin, guitar and bass, on various cuts throughout the releases, generating an even larger melodious mix.

Equally important to mention is that an infectious, playful joy emanates from this group--promising a good time will be had by all. An absolute love of offering this music can be felt throughout the many cuts.

Mandolin lovers will melt on many of the cuts as Sims Delaney-Potthoff imaginatively and wonderfully features his instrumental talents on that stringed instrument throughout the two releases. The same plaudits can be extended for Doug Brown's creative guitar play as well as Maggie Delaney-Pothoff's charming vocals.

"Live At The ZMF" is a 1997 live recording of the Wail at the Zelt Music Festival in Freiburg, Germany. This release features more solos and less harmony singing but still provides the eminent instrumentation. "Airborne" provides more vocal harmonies as well as the expected instrumental blend.

Selections of the choicest cuts will, of course, vary with vagaries of each listener but "Swing That Thing," the sweet blending of "Benny's" and "Pennies From Heaven," the energetic, mandolin-driven "Tico Tico," the remake of the old Nat King Cole tune "Straighten Up And Fly Right," the mandolin and guitar instrumental "How High The Moon," and "It Ain't Right" are prime selections from "Live At ZMF."

The choice offerings on "Airborne" are the uptempo, jazzy-swing-scatty "People Stuff," "Why Don't You Do Right" with credit to Maggie Delaney-Pothoff's vocals, the mandolin and clarinet-mixed "After You've Gone," "The Last Days Of Pompeii" with it opening eerily reminiscent of the sound and style of the late Stephane Grappelli, the rhythmic troika of "I Knew It Was Love," "Emmett's Tune," and Fats Waller's song "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie."

Granted, this is a unique and probably different folk sound than most expect but it quickly takes root when given even the slightest opportunity. Give it a try and the only regret you'll express is why did you wait so long.

Track List:

Live At The ZMF


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