Unkle Nancy is a prolific, almost manic songwriter, and this is his third full-length project in less that two years. His vaudeville- and ragtime-style compositions tell stories of interesting characters and their foibles, including some semi-autobiographical tales. Use and distribution of this article is subject to our Publisher Guidelines whereby the original author's information and copyright must be included. Album: Unkle Nancy - Vagabond Tramp by Bradley Wilson in Entertainment / Music (submitted 2009-12-10) OREGON MUSIC NEWS December 8, 2009 by Bradley Wilson Somewhere in the landscape inhabited by Tom Waits, Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels hopped a train for nowhere in particular. Their album Vagabond Tramp begins as a tentative foray into familiar territory before wending it's way to a personality all it's own in just 11 tracks. The instruments include a washboard, flute, cello, kazoo, and a ratchet. Lyrics such as 'I like to wakeup hungover, wake up in hell / Each day the difference, gets harder to tell' at first induce the listener to assume this work is paean to dissipation, and it is partly that. The album starts out like a cold shower in the morning. Subjects include 'Bobby Bumbleton' who murdered his parents, and a tramp who goes home with a woman ('Mr. James') telling her husband in the morning: 'If you could just hand me the pants that you're standin' on / I bid good-day to you and your wife.' Nancy affects a Waitsian growl for the first four songs. 'Baby Blue' is when the mood changes from cynical to playful, though at no time does it lose a sly, sardonic edge. After the denouement of 'Cowz Come Home,' in which human voices and instruments whimsically approximate the sounds of barnyard animals, and the bounding energy of 'Top of the Hill': 'I'm goin', goin', goin' to the top of the hill,' we have grounds to expect toe-tapping happiness for the rest of the album. Fortunately, Unkle Nancy and company ascribe to an approach predicated on presenting listeners with the unexpected. The next track, 'Mighty King' is a direct confrontation of the Bush administration, briefly alluding to the twin towers, with the mournful chorus, 'Down, down, they all went down / Now the new war's begun.' A hollow wail, first vocal, then instrumental, resets our expectations from whimsical to rueful. Bradley Wilson is a contributor to OREGON MUSIC NEWS.