LIVE: The C.C. Vagabonds @ Saratoga Visitors Center, 12/31/13

Review and video by Joel Patterson

Genre music, like say take Gypsy swing, is what you get when a tradition has a few hundred years to hone itself. The native acoustic instruments (stinging/wailing violin, beefy bass, churning/snappy guitar) each assume their role in the spectrum, with configurations and textures that go back centuries: the four-man band, the lead singer, the harmonies, the pumping rhythms (and sentimental reveries) of ancient folk culture.

I was trying to think of a fantastical backstory for the C.C. Vagabonds, and here’s what I came up with: incredibly, these are all brothers of the same father. Each has a first name starting with “C.” And their middle names are also “C”! Charles Christian, Clement Conroy, Carlos Chatanooga… you get the picture.

The original, ol’ Champion Checkmate Vagabond, was an itinerant musician and faith healer who roamed the Eastern seaboard in the last century and even took to sea for extended periods, although no one is quite sure where or when. Tall tales have arisen around his exploits, hard to verify, but he left his offspring with one piece of advice, which they have followed faithfully to this day: “Play, damn you!”

[Nevertheless, the fellows have taken on colorful stage names: Zack Cohen, Colin McCoy, Mike Jenkins and Peter Fisher.]

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