The Italian duo of Ombretta Ghidini and Laura Mantovi throw a bunch of different folk styles at the wall on their first full-length album and hope that it all sticks. Surprisingly, most of it does. The Freaky Mermaids seem to have a special affection for early New Orleans jazz, which they put on display right away with album opener “All I Do is Sing the Blues”. The song lopes along as Ghidini laments a lost love, and trumpets, trombones and saxophones gradually creep into the background, eventually becoming a full-on New Orleans shuffle. Traditional Americana pops up on “A Rabbit’s Tale”, a story song that features banjo and harmonica in addition to pleasantly rolling guitar chords.
The Mermaids are at their best when they try out twists on old formulas, as on “Paso Doble (flowers and jails)”. This song has a simple acoustic guitar riff, but is greatly enhanced by the unusual combination of clarinet and cello, which blend together for an incredibly warm-sounding chorus. The love ballad “A Gentle Way” works because of the simplicity of its sentiment, but the cello and oddball sound effects that accompany Ghidini give the song extra flavor.
On the other hand, the duo runs into trouble when they try to get cute. The Freaky Mermaids start off at “adorable”, so the attempted cheeky wordplay of “Loving U Ku” just comes off as cloying. In addition, unofficial third member Angela Scalvini shows up on this song and on “A Rabbit’s Tale” to do spoken word bits in a very weird voice that ruins the vibe of both songs. One presumes it’s supposed to be charming, but really it’s just strange. But in the end these complaints turn out to be minor on what overall is a pretty strong debut album.
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