Rock 'n' Roll Vagabond
by Geoffrey Himes
Rock ’n’ roll has always been dominated by instruments that sound like consonants. The click of a pick against guitar strings, the pop of fingers against keys or bass or the snap of sticks against drum heads, they all echo the percussive sound of tongue against palate, teeth against lips or lips against lips. By contrast, most European and European-emigrant folk music has been dominated by vowel sounds—the open-mouthed, airy sustain of trumpets, tubas, accordions, pump organs, even bowed violins. One reason the band Beirut sounds so fresh is that they’ve made room in rock for those vowel-sounding instruments.