Karpov at Great American Music Hall, July 13
LOCAL LIVE "I think we might have chosen the wrong drinks for tonight," my friend Damian remarked at the start of an inspiring set by local Appalachian-Gypsy-klezmer folk fusionists Karpov. As they transported us to the unmapped intersection where Kentucky and Romania meet, I could see my buddy's point. There they were mountain men spinning tar-black tales of loneliness and love run afoul over clarinet twists and robust churns of the accordion. And here we were sipping away on cocktails! We had it all wrong: this was music for straight, pure, unadulterated liquor. Preferably whiskey or vodka, right out of the bottle, diluted by nothing other than maybe a few tears.
Performing songs from last year's stirring self-released Soliloquy and previewing material intended for its follow-up, the quintet did a convincing job whisking us away from the Tenderloin and dropping us into the distant past in some remote backwoods. Boasting a wise-beyond-its-years voice similar to Will Oldham's or David Eugene Edwards's, Andre Karpov recalled the wandering troubadours of a preindustrial age, though here he was backed by a group akin to an Eastern European wedding band prone to brooding from time to time.
Karpov gazed out ruefully "into the distance, where not even my persistence could bring her back to me" on highlight "Further from Me," and the lament was cloaked in shifting shadows, thanks to painterly touches by Joe Lewis (stand-up bass), Jarod Hermann (drums), Sam Tsitrin (accordion), and Aaron Novik (clarinet). The ghosts of regret made other appearances, on "I Won" and "Under the Sun" articulated to spine-tingling effect with snaking clarinet runs and sighing accordion over understated but commanding rhythms. Still, if this was any kind of wedding band, there had to be dancing, and Karpov set the audience's feet a-stomping on rowdy numbers "Sorry World," "Soliloquy," and crowd favorite "To the Grave," which beckoned my two feet forward with its calls of "the fog has lifted, lifted away, so come on out children, come out and play." No problem there, Karpov. Next time, though, I'll bring the whiskey. (Todd Lavoie)