Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
Hazmat Modine – Bahamut – Barbes Records
Published on December 28, 2006
Recently we reviewed a CD combining marimba with bagpipes. Well, here’s a another totally unexpected musical combo: blues harmonicas and Tuvan Throat Singers! Harp specialists Wade Schuman and Scott Robinson are the leaders of this motley crew, who are identified separately on each of the 14 tracks of the disc. The general idea is supposed to be American roots music blended with various world musics to result in an odd, otherworldly sort of sound.
The Huun-Huur-Tu Throat Singers quartet join in on three of the tracks, but with their strong blues orientation there is no suspicion that we are on the plains of Tanna Tuva. The harmonica on the cover is not a fanciful construction just for the album but an actual instrument that was made to produce a louder sound before amplification was possible. The two harp players are joined by guitars, trumpet, tuba and drums, but the unexpected instrumental sounds come from Claviola, cimbalom, contrabass sax, and the Chinese mouth organ known as the sheng.
The tunes are all blues-based and most of them are vocals. My favorite was Who Walks In When I Walk Out?, which backs up the lyrics with a pair of tubas, steel guitar and cimbalom. Not being a heavy blues fan I was wishing there was a bit more world music variety in the basic material – perhaps some tunes done in an African, Asian or South American folk form. The lyrics to three of the tunes are printed, but the most interesting aspect of the note booklet are the eight historical photos of various groups of motley musicians; some have been doctored in Photoshop to put members of Hazmat Modine into the photos.
TrackList: Yesterday Morning, It Calls me, Bahamut, Fred of Ballaroy, Broke My Baby’s Heart, Almost Gone, Steady Roll, Everybody Loves You, Lost Fox Train (for Joe), Dry Spell, Ugly Rug, Who Walks In When I Walk Out?, Grade-A Gray Day, Man Trouble, bonus track
– John Henry