Decades and Days of the new

Gypsy Tailwind’s with Gervasi, and don’t skip a beat
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  June 16, 2010

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AMERICANA AMBITION Gypsy Tailwind.

After the bombast of Grace, Gypsy Tailwind’s sophomore record, full of strings and horns and big arrangements worthy of a Nashville studio, the opening to their brand-new Decades and Days seems decidedly intentional. A naked acoustic guitar begins “When You Think You’ve Got It All” with a hammer-on hook and new female lead Amanda Gervasi begins singing closely mic’d, her voice full of body: “Sometimes I don’t know when it happens/Could someone tell me when I’m free/Cuz it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be/Just when you think you’ve got it all/You’ve got it all.”

DECADES AND DAYS | Released by Gypsy Tailwind | at Port City Music Hall, in Portland | June 26 | at Nateva Music Festival, in Oxford | July 1 | www.gypsytailwind.net
As in: Just when you think you’ve got it all, and your band is kicking ass, well, all of a sudden you find yourself with a new female lead singer. And then, unapologetically, here comes a full horn section and a dobro and a verse from male lead Dan Connor. By the time they take the third verse together, they’ve come full circle, voices blending as well as anything you’ve ever heard on a Gypsy Tailwind record: “Just when you think you’ve got it all/Don’t lose it all.”

No, they haven’t lost their focus. They haven’t lost that raw emotion of their breakout Halo Sessions. In fact, they’ve circled back to the beginning, not only recapturing some of the stripped-down feel that made that first record feel so close, but even bringing back the excellent “Tonight You Know” and “Two and One” for another recording. Of course, those were signature tracks for former lead Anna Lombard, and it’s going to make comparisons between Gervasi and Lombard inevitable. It’s wishy-washy of me, but I’m going to call it a draw: Lombard’s bigger, brassier delivery suits the more balladic “Tonight”; Gervasi (who has a bigger voice than I was expecting) has a feel for nuance and subtlety that adds a new dimension to “Two and One.”

I’ve listened to both those original tracks maybe 100 times, though, and if the new versions were the best things on the new album it would be in trouble. No one wants revisionist history to hold an album together. Luckily, there are at least a couple tracks that hold their own and more with those initial hits, and the album as a whole sounds like a band that have found a middle ground between beauty and grit, folksy roots and assured country.

“Spirits” opens with what might be the best recorded harmonica sound I’ve ever heard, filtered through some amp or other to give it a thick blatt that grabs you by the throat just as much as the double-lead a cappella intro to what becomes a bluegrassy stomp worthy of a place on one of those Wilco/Billy Bragg Mermaid Avenue discs. Think “Jesus Christ for President.” It’s a great chance to hear an excellent piano solo from Tyler Stanley (also in Sly-Chi), too, who’s as much a force on this disc as the electric guitar work from Max Cantlin.

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