I was recently asked if I could do a review of the latest release from Diego’s Umbrella. My first thought was “Who?” Usually, even if I have not heard a band I have at least of heard of them but not in this case.
A quote from their website reflects my exact sentiments:
“There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love Diego’s Umbrella and those who don’t know them yet. Celebrated as San Francisco’s ambassadors of Gypsy Rock, these world-renowned entertainers have created an irresistible mélange that is entirely their own”
Maybe it’s because of the unfamiliar “Gypsy Rock” or one of the many other genres I have heard them described as. Diego’s Umbrella describes their own music as “a blend of eastern European gypsy traditional stuff, Spanish flamenco, polka/ska rhythms, and good ole’ pop and rock from the west. It sounds schizo to describe it, but it all comes together as dance music. It’s a show for getting drunk, sweaty and making bad decisions.” Sounds like a few concerts I’ve attended. Whatever it is I am ready to climb aboard and give it my best shot.
Along with two EP’s, Edjka is Diego’s Umbrella’s fifth full-length studio album. The band currently consists of Vaughn Lindstrom aka “The Juergistador” (acoustic guitar, vocals), Kevin Gautschi aka “The French”, (vocals, electric guitar, and percussion), Red Cup aka “The Animal” (bass), Jason Kleinberg aka “The Unicorn” (violin, vocals, accordion) and Jake Wood aka “The Samurai” (drums)
I’ll use a quote from one of my favorite movies The Ghost and Mr. Chicken when Judge Nast played by George Chandler turns to Luther Heggs played by Don Knotts and says “My mind is wide open Luther”.
Diego’s Umbrella – Edjka – Released March 2017 from Hardline Entertainment
(Various CD’s and downloads have variations of songs and order – I will review the copy that I have)
The opening track “Old Vienna” sets the tone for the CD with what sounds like a gentle acoustic driven opening that immediately turns it up fast with some nice escalating vocals. It displays some very nice violin throughout. Next up is “Born to Lead” which again possesses a very distinct and catchy violin riff. A great chorus makes this one grow on you. I really like this tune. “The Black Open” starts slow but slowly gains into a real gem that truly shows off its Spanish influences. “You’ll Never Take Us Down” is another really good song with various layers and a climactic chorus. The violin has a real infectious groove here. “Don Quixote” contains some Spanish lyrics but it’s the English ones that caught my ear – “Don Quixote never drank this swill, pissed on a windmill”. “Take This On Our Own” slows this down into an almost reggae sounding funky beat while “Into the Fray” cranks it right back up into full gear. But it’s the next song “Do You Like It” that I declare my favorite. It contains a real catchy as hell chorus and some amazing flamenco guitar behind some sweet melodic background vocals. “Rattling Bones” continues the pace of well-written gypsy rockers. Instrumental songs “Korobeiniki (Tetris)” and “Bularias Por Cucharas” really capture the truly dedicated musicianship here. They never seem to sway from their roots and are definitely are masters of their craft which you can tell they take seriously. Sandwiched between these two is another great tune, “Up Down”. Rounding out the CD is the title track ”Edjka”. I love how the song fades out with some great harmonies.
It was easy for me to review this album despite it being a completely unknown band from an unfamiliar genre. Being born and raised on AM radio I was taught to be versatile. The radio of my youth played The Carpenters next to Black Sabbath, next to Glen Campbell, next to Led Zeppelin. I never had a choice of genre back then – it was just music. Even though I am a mostly a hard rock/melodic rock type of music fan I have always taken the same approach to music for close to 50 years. If it appeals to my ears, then who cares what genre it is, I will enjoy it, buy it, recommend it and repeatedly listen to it. End of story.
Diego’s Umbrella did exactly that. It, for the most part, appealed to my ears and I could submerse myself into it for the 45-50 minutes. I intend on checking out their back catalog for some hidden “Gypsy Rock” gems. They are I’m sure definitely a band that would by a blast to see live.
Brian “That 70’s Guy” Ronald