ADRIAN RASO and FANFARE CIOCARLIA
Asphalt Tango Records 4414
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Pictures tell stories. The cover of Devil’s Tale features a bat-flocked Gothic background. Front and center we see a lady of no discernible virtue leaning against a tuba. Guitar-packing Old Nick sits astride a horse led by a cigar-smoking skeleton holding a trumpet. Maybe the old legend is true and the Devil does have the best music. Within Balkan music, Fanfare Ciocarlia occupies the semi-mythical space analogous to The Bothy Band in Ireland, Vartinna in Finland, or La Bottine Souriante in Quebec. Soaked in the brine of Romani music and seasoned by everything from Austrian military band music and Macedonian melodies to Bollywood and radio pop sounds, Fanfare is brassy, bold outfit that often sounds like Gogol Bordello meets a mariachi band. Their mix of energy and whimsy is cyclonic and virtuosic. You need to be good, really good, to keep up with these guys. Enter Canadian guitarist Adrian Raso, whose rakish personality and love of Django Reinhardt put him on the same wavelength. When Raso is laying down a seriously fast lick, it’s what you’d get if you stuck a Gypsy soundtrack to microwave popcorn. Put some fierce brass behind all that, and even the Devil had better watch out. Even song titles suggest inequity: “Urn St. Tavern,” “The Absinthe Minded Gypsy, “Devil’s Tale.” Throw what you know about time signatures out the window and move the furniture from the room, you’re going to need room to flop, flail, and dance along with the musical demons partying in your head.