Woman In Sin (Fishtank Ensemble, 2010)
Fresh and flirty, clever and quirky, Fishtank Ensemble’s Woman In Sin is a veritable boatload of fabulous. Building on a resume of recordings that include 2005’s Super Raoul and 2008’s Samurai Over Serbia, Fishtank Ensemble’s Woman in Sin careens headlong into a musical landscape fashioned out of gypsy tunes, swing, jazz, Flamenco and folk melodies from Romania, Serbia and Transylvania, as well as brief dips into a manouche from Holland and Kurdish folk tunes, transforming the group into an American gypsy band.
Rounding out Fishtank’s sound are Ursula Knudson on vocals, violin, banjolele and musical saw, Fabrice Martinez on violin and violintromba, Douglas “Douje” Smolens on guitars and cajon and Djordje Stijepovic on vocals and upright bass. It’s apparent from the opening strains of Woman in Sin that these musicians have earned their chops. Creating a sound that’s densely packed and tautly vibrant, Fishtank Ensemble wrings the most out of every single track.
Opening with the title track “Woman in Sin,” it’s difficult to not want a seatbelt as the group takes off with dazzling violin and guitar lines, but it’s Ms. Knudson’s stunning vocals that send the track off into outer space. With the warm, retro feel of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, tracks like “Espagnolette” and the traditional Romanian tune “Am Furat de la Haidouks,” with guest accordionist Josh Kaufman, sparkle with a smoking Gypsy flash. Quirky numbers like “After You’ve Gone” sizzle with sassy, playful vocals and swinging musicianship.
Fishtank provides that there’s something for everyone, including a sultry, spare version of “Fever” with Ms. Knudson on vocals and Mr. Stijepovic’s on bass that will leave the listener gasping for air. The sumptuous “”Djordje’s Rachenitza,” composed and arranged by Mr. Stijepovic includes guest performances by accordionist Dan Cantrell and riq player Faisal Zedan. Flamenco flash dominates “Pena Andaluz” while passion infuses the lovely “O Dewel,” a traditional Manouche from Holland.
Fishtank Ensemble’s Woman In Sin is delightfully delicious. Fans should be sure to check out the group’s summer touring schedule for a full force dose this Gypsy fusion.
Buy the album: Woman In Sin
Author: TJ Nelson
TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.
Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.
Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.