Unbounded and Unplugged
Wolf Krakowski's Unbounded, released on Kame'a Media in 1998, is an English language singer-songwriter album that sees this extraordinary and sensitive musician, steeped in blues, R&B and rock as well as in Yiddish culture and traditional Yiddish song, unplugged. A natural blend of country rock, R&B, gospel and blues, Unbounded proves irresistible and utterly compelling, the Krakowski penned
originals possessed of a credibility that only arises out of first-hand life experience. Even if you come to this album knowing nothing of Wolf Krakowski or his colourful life story, you know at once that these deeply personal, heartfelt songs are deeply rooted in personal experience, you know the singer's "been there and done that" and doubtlessly "got the t-shirt" as well. This is gripping stuff indeed. Bearing the stamp of the authority of worldly-wise and street-wise credibility in its emotional depth, Unbounded is timeless, transcending temporal and spatial as well as cultural constraints. Although the music organically blends the "soul music" of both Old and New World, the themes and emotions of the songs are universal ones, given expression in Krakowski's inimitable style and distinctive, slightly nasal, highly charismatic voice.
The opener of Wolf Krakowski's Unbounded, Blasting In The Everlasting, kicks this album off with a superb gospel-inspired arrangement and lyrics liberally peppered with Biblical injunctions. After such a strong opener you could be forgiven for wondering where the album could possibly go from there, but Krakowski continues to deliver consistently with each succeeding track. Each song tells a story, cameo-like, deeply personal, intense, telling of Emotional Problems, set off with thick, rich R&B sax riffs, singing a Carnival Song about always letting things slip through your fingers, finding love only to lose it.... A particularly fine soprano sax solo by David Isabelle on the latter needs to be singled out, and again on the title track, the also somewhat darkly reflective Unbounded. The mood turns brighter, even cheerful, on Boogie In Motion. Optimism and spirituality dominate Head 'Em Off At The Pass. Five-Cent Me features the superb muted trumpet of jazz legend Raphe Malik. A bitter-sweet ballad, Well, My Heart, is followed by Aches And Pains, a dark, agonized blues. The Power closes Wolf Krakowski's Unbounded on an affirmative note that is truly inspired as well as inspiring, and very uplifting.
Wolf Krakowski is very ably supported by The Lonesome Brothers and Douglas Beaumier, David Isabelle, Daniel Lombardo, backing singers Jaye Simms, Pamela Smith Selavka and Fraidy Katz, one of North America's outstanding stars of Yiddish song herself, and last but not least of course legendary jazz trumpeter Raphe Malik. The arrangements are impeccable. The liner includes full lyrics for all songs on Unbounded.
To say that Wolf Krakowski's Unbounded is essential in any modern singer-songwriter (or, for that matter, contemporary blues/R&B, or contemporary Jewish music) collection would be an understatement. This album is beyond that, it is priceless. It also deserves much wider distribution, and I understand that licensing/distribution enquiries would indeed be very welcome by Kame'a Media. Although the original issue is still available in limited quantities, it is already considered rare and highly collectible, sometimes changing hands on Ebay for several times its retail price.
© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.
Wolf Krakowski - Vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar, ball-peen leaf-spring
The Lonesome Brothers:
Jim Armenti - Lead guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, violin, keyboards, claves, tenor saxophone
Ray Mason - Bass guitar
Bob Grant - Drums
Douglas Beaumier - Pedal steel and lap steel guitars, dobro
David Isabelle - Soprano and tenor saxophones
Daniel Lombardo - Conga drums, doumbek, tambourine, maracas, shakers
Raphe Malik - Trumpet
Jaye Simms - Backup vocals
Pamela Smith Selavka - Backup vocals
Fraidy Katz - Backup vocals