Retro’s in these days, but its influence has only been skin deep so far. Hipsters are snatching up Goodwill vintage, but they’re listening to punk, not Edith Piaf. Happily for purists, Clare Fader and the Vaudevillians are the real deal, performing what they call “cabaret for the 21st century.”

“The Elephant’s Baby,” the group’s newest offering, mixes Fader’s sometimes slightly odd lyrics and melodies with instrumental arrangements by collaborator Damon Carmona. The combination plays out in a series of smooth, swank ballads with a sideshow twist.

Were these songs not a little off kilter, it’s likely that the Vaudevillians would be languishing at home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina writing songs about the tortured artist’s life. What saves “The Elephant’s Baby” from being an exercise in historical reenactment is the sly sense of humor in Fader’s lyrics and Carmona’s fanciful arrangements.

Carmona uses brass, strings, vibes, cowbell, banjo, accordion – just about everything except the kitchen sink (although the Vaudevillians have at times played bicycle spokes) to good advantage. The album holds together fairly well across a range of sounds from fairway to tango to smoke-filled lounge.

Fader is currently on tour supporting the album with Vaudevillians Andy Mabe on upright bass, Mary K. Elkins on cello, Joe Hundertmark on guitar and Terry Lonergan on drums. They’ll make an appearance at the Skinny at 625 Congress St., Portland on Nov. 14 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $4 and the show is 21+.

Arts & Entertainment Editor Meghan Conley can be contacted at: [email protected]

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