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Reviews: Triple-X, Wodka Vaseline; and Dr. Eugene, Dr. Eugene

Wodka Vaseline
[Appel APL1328 (2010)]

Dr. Eugene
Dr. Eugene
[Appel APL1329 (2010)]

Belgium, and it’s BalFolk or country dance scene, have become hotspots for exciting new young folk bands. Triple-X is a prime example of the kinds of complex melding of styles, folk, rock, jazz and traditional, that these bands strive for. The opening track on Wodka Vaseline is a prime example, with crunchy electric guitar, fiddle, accordion, drums and Bombard. The tune flirts with both rock and traditional musical themes. But the band never overplays that hand. The following set of tunes written by fiddler Bjorn Van Hove offers slower, more melodic interplay, including a restrained Bombard (not a phrase used often when describing the instrument!) passage by Stéphane Hardy.

Indeed, the strength of the band is in the variety of the music it plays, from faster, harder-edged tracks to slower acoustic based pieces. First and foremost, Triple-X is a dance band, so the tunes always have a groove and energy to them. Vocalist Soetkin Collier (a frequent guest during their live shows) sings two songs as well. This makes for an energetic and exciting collection of modern Belgium folk music.

If Triple-X is for dancing, Dr. Eugene is for contemplative moments. This four-piece Belgium band is almost too restrained and subtle for its own good. It’s a dance band as well, but one that relies on acoustic instrument (double bass, accordion, guitar, viola d’amore/nyckelharpa) to provide the musical groove. The band can be playful, with complex melodic interplay between the accordion, guitar and viola, but at times it all seems a bit too studied and constrained, including the two vocal tracks. That’s not to say it’s bad, because it isn’t; on one level it’s quite enjoyable, but the band never does seem to break out from its self-imposed constraints. A bit more passion next time round will make for a more enjoyable recording.

[www.nenappel.be; www.dreugene.be; www.triple-x.be]

—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)

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