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World Music CD Reviews North American

Hazmat Modine

By Doug Merlino
Published April 3, 2007

Bahamut
Barbès Records

This New York City band’s line-up features dual harmonicas, a tuba holding down the bass role, guitar, drums and a trumpet. On this debut album, that instrumental core is joined by instrumentation ranging from the cimbalom—a hammered dulcimer played by Eastern European Gypsies—to Huun-Huur-Tu, the Tuvan throat singers (on three tracks). Songs glide between swampy blues, calypso, klezmer, country and Gypsy styles. The vocals of leader Wade Schuman at times recall Tom Waits, except Schuman is easier to understand. Running through the whole sonic stew is a strong dose of New Orleans (one, albeit, with quite a few more immigrants from Eastern Europe). Sounds like a bit much, but somehow it all seamlessly merges into a miraculous jolt, from the time it swaggers out of the gate with harmonicas ablaze on “Yesterday Morning” to the last cut, “Man Trouble,” eleven minutes of harmonica-Tuvan jamming over a bluesy groove.