Bon Bon Vivant, “Paint & Pageantry” (Independent)

You might well guess, from both their band name and the title of their debut full-length album, that the cabaret is strong with this sextet, and you’d be right: Song titles like “Lost Soul,” “Saints & Sinners,” and “Hard Way of Livin’ When You’re Dead” can also give you some idea just how seriously this group takes its commitment to alternative lifestyles of all kinds. But not for them is the nihilistic coldness of European murder ballads; while they do a great job at mixing gypsy jazz, trad jazz and pre-war pop into a slightly tawdry but never tacky frission, lead singer and songwriter Abigail Cosio—for whom this band serves as a vehicle for her musical sketches—also has a large streak of Americana running through both her voice and her lyrics. Which means that when the band stops to reflect every so often, as on “Poplar Tree,” “Rio Grande” or the title track, she comes off more Alison Krauss than Kurt Weill.

It’s an odd but intriguing juxtaposition—decadence with real heart—and even if the arrangements fluctuate between the two styles, Cosio’s rich, expressive vocal turns contain equal amounts torch and twang, and it’s enough to hold the duality together. And the potential to blend both styles into one, though unrealized here, is a heady one: The world is waiting for a group that connects Storyville to Abbeville, and when Abigail sings a line like “We are the king and queen of nothing/ but we play the part so well,” she demonstrates the shared humanity that might one day lead them to it. In the meantime, we can enjoy the surprisingly danceable beats of “Lady Luck” or the millennial chant that pops up in “Lost Soul.” Maybe they have even bigger things on their mind.

 

  • Natalie K. Mitchell

    Love this band!!