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Music Review: Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers – A Bucketful of Ghosts

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Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers have created a wonderful mix of Americana music with their second album A Bucketful of Ghosts. The title was taken from a John Steinbeck passage and is the perfect definition of what the album is: the all-American life struggle. The album combines the restlessness of Bob Dylan with the harmonies and lexicon of Jon Denver. A Bucketful of Ghosts is an honest album with an everyday-man feel.

The opening track “My Autumn Sky” is the harbinger of what the whole album contains: strong guitar arrangements, interesting lyrics, and a clear direction. It is by far the best track of the album. Also notable was “Fishing in the Rain.” While the track is a simple combination of vocals, guitar, and bass, the song is a throwback to that classic Woodstock/Folk arrangement.

The only song that didn’t feel connected to the rest if the album was “I Got A Loneliness.” The track has vocal harmonies that don’t sound right and the counting in opening doesn’t fit the rest of the album. Lyrically, the song was more lighthearted than the rest of the album, it revolves drinking and gallivanting. It is the shortest of the album and it feels like the band rushed through the song. The album would have sounded the same, if not better, if the track wasn’t included.

Although the guitar is featured in all the songs, the most interesting part was the inclusion of the violins. They add pain in songs like the bridge of “Lafayette Blvd” and “From the River,” but also movement and excitement in a song like “Dreamin’.” The violin creates an aimless drifting to the songs. The inclusion of instruments of all the songs fits where they were placed. The album was not overproduced to death.

On a whole the album has a dark, pessimistic theme, but there is something in the lyrics that leaves you thinking introspectively about your own life. A song like “Daddy’s Suit” makes you question your own relationship with your father, while the stories from “Lafayette Bird” made me wonder what happens behind my own neighbors’ closed doors. Lyrically and vocally the album takes influence from the early Bob Dylan-era. Although there are no references of social unrest or political undertones, the album follows the folk storytelling of the 60s.

From the title to the cover art, the whole album was arranged beautifully. It is paced perfectly, letting the tempos of the songs guide you throughout. The cover art is dreary and colorless, following the idea of the leafless trees of autumn and loneliness. The band made a smart decision to end the album with the song “Follow the Stones.” The track is probably the most positive song even with the slow tempo.

The whole album lacks vocal range, but the idea of A Bucketful of Ghosts is not about high and low notes, it’s all about the lyrical message and the lamented nature of each story. The album is not about musical engineering or effects, it is a pure, organic, and introspective combination of lyrics and arrangement. There should be no worries about the sophomore slump, because Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers have created a wonderful album that they can be proud of.

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About Michael Pascua