If there's one thing New York-based duo The Gypsy Nomads possess in abundance, it's eclecticism. Folk, punk, tribal and Celtic sounds all thrive in their fourth album, Happy Madness. The result is like falling through an opium cloud into the middle of a Vaudeville show: It's a little chaotic but nevertheless a delirious good time.
Comprised of Samantha Stephenson and Scott Helland, The Gypsy Nomads serve up a lot of sound for such a shorthanded staff. Helland snakes twisting guitar riffs around Stephenson's creative percussion. Stephenson's clear, expressive vocals slather the concoction, and perhaps more than anything else, adhere the cobbled sound together. Her strong voice carries just enough theatrical style to sell their world of murder mysteries, ominous carnivals and humid sensuality.
The duo shares songwriting credit, and their combined efforts produce a remarkably consistent experience. Lyrics adopt a story-telling role that fits comfortably inside their energetic folk. Occasional mystic evocations just skirt Spinal Tap-style self-parody but, mostly, add weird, creepy flavor.
It's easy to knock Happy Madness for indulgent moments: It's like a Victorian brothel where French silk covers up the dirt and post-visit medical check-ups are advised. But those aspects are just part of the allure.
The Gypsy Nomads play the Palace Friday, July 16, at 9 PM with Head for the Hills. $8.