Jumbie in the Jukebox strikes the perfect balance between tradition and innovation, with a sound that is both timely and timeless. The band’s sizzling musicianship compliments Gonsalves’ remarkable lyrics, arch observations of the best and worst aspects of human nature.
“Kaiso Newscast” opens the album with a tribute to calypso’s ability to deliver the news with a cynical smirk. Kaleidoscopic percussion tracks, Latin horn stabs and chattering wah wah guitars support Gonsalves’ droll delivery of the barbed lyrics.
Boozy, funky horns, and a beat halfway between soca and dancehall, underpin the supernatural vision of “The Call,” a reminder that love is all that matters in this life. “Postcard Poverty” rides a mellow ska groove, augmented by chiming Congolese-style guitar lines to deride the tourists who find the impoverished lifestyles of others to be quaint and picturesque.
“Mr. Monday” and “Joe the Paranoiac” are old-fashioned calypsos with a contemporary twist. The first is the portrait of a victim of a mental illness forced to recycle bottles to make ends meet, while the second is the story of a man paralyzed by his inability to deal with the stress engendered by 24-hour newscasts and constant terror alerts.
“Tic Toc Goes the Clock” ends the album on an exuberant note, with a complex genre-scrambling arrangement full of unexpected stops and starts and sounds that range from Edison’s cylinders to ska, with a mind twisting lyric drawing from many sources, from Linton Kwesi Johnson to the King James Bible. “This song was included on the assumption that every album needs to finish off with a long-winded apocalyptic diatribe, peppered with muted trombones and allusions to dead English poets,” Gonsalves quips.
…and we wanted to find a new voice for our music which could draw on and depart from tradition,” he continues. “We made a conscious effort, but one that was quite natural in its own way, to make the music different, a bit more intense. This album is a small, heartfelt tribute to the spirits – both remembered and forgotten – who have gone before us, whose songs and sounds have never lost their power to enchant.”
The album was recorded between Montreal, Trinidad, Belize and the band’s home base in Toronto. “The recording was like a songwriting session,” Gonsalves says. “Some things came in a flash of inspiration, some came drip by drip, with a lot of crafting and rethinking before the final result. Ivan has a lot of old equipment. Guitars with that twangy 1930s sound, horns with a monophonic quality, stuff that matched the sounds of the calypso albums of the 50s and 60s. It made me think of a jukebox haunted by a jumbie that spits forth various sounds from different eras of Trinidadian music.”