Kagero, Japanese Gypsy Rock (CDBY, 2009)

Every January I go to Golden Festival, a massive world music party that runs well into the morning. The music at the Festival is primarily Balkan in flavor, but every year I try to catch one or two acts that break from the usual mold. This year, the swingy band with the Japanese singer certainly qualified.

Fronted by singer/guitarist Kaz, Kagero actually hail from Brooklyn. Their one album, released in 2009, is called Japanese Gypsy Rock. While there is a jazzy influence to their sound, the album title otherwise describes them pretty well. The arrangements are generally dominated by Kaz's acoustic guitar, but fiddler J. W. (also of Japanese descent) plays with a gypsy style reminiscent of Stephane Grapelli, and bassist Rob provides solid support. Lyrically, the songs on Japanese Gypsy Rock cover a series of romantic adventures and misadventures. Kaz is like a one-man UN when it comes to women, as Latin America ("My Little Bonita") China ("Shanghai Calls Me"), and Turkey ("Mermaid from Istanbul") are all explicitly represented here. Kaz's lyrics are almost always tongue-in-cheek, with some flashes of genuine inspiration like on "Say No Adieu": "Every little story that makes you feel sorry though it's been a thorn in your flesh. She does not end it no matter how you bend it though she knows that cogs don't quite mesh."

Kagero are witty, eclectic, and best of all, fun. I hope they get another recording out soon, but Japanese Gypsy Rock will do just fine in the meantime. They are even better live than on record, so if you can get to Brooklyn or Manhattan they're definitely worth catching.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

A live performance of "My Daddy Is a Thief"

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