Twist The Knife
Rip Cat Records
Hi-Octane and Low Down ‘n Dirty R&B
Where to start? The cover artwork I guess. If I’d been idly flicking through the racks of a record shop and stumbled on this, I’m pretty sure I’d have picked it up, then following a cursory scan of the cool song titles, I’d have looked inside the gatefold to see a photo-of the band; three scoundrels wearing shades and looking like hired in hit-men on the Sopranos; and hell’s teeth ….. Eric Von Herzon’s smile alone sent a shiver down my spine.
Of course, by this stage I’m obviously going to like whatever music they play….. and when the sizzling instrumental opener Cuttin’ Deep sashayed out of the shops speakers I would have gleefully handed over my £10 and scurried back home with indecent haste to listen to the rest; and I certainly wouldn’t have been disappointed.
The 44’s have been around the LA Blues scene for 20+ years and the only common thread appears to be head honcho Johnny Main who is very much the lynch pin of this dynamic trio’s very own version of Chicago Blues.
Not for the first; or I hope the last time this year, this is the type of music that I travelled miles to see in my late teens and early 20’s; raw Juke Joint Blues that shakes your soul when done right; and boy oh boy do The 44’s do it right.
Across the 8 songs here, the band cover a wide variety of emotions with the songs they’ve selected to cover; with only a couple of titles already being known to me …… Howlin’ Wolf’s Howlin’ and Muddy’s Champagne and Reefer, and singer Johnny Main brings both to life in a way I’d forgot was possible; and his guitar playing literally sounds like sparks were flying across the studio, and when Von Herzon blows that harp …… oohhheee…….. memories of seeing a young Paul Lamb in the Blues Burglars ripping it up at the *Broken Doll (Newcastle) immediatly came to mind.
Be under no illusions, The 44’s ain’t no ordinary covers band, stuck in the 50’s playing Classics to drunks and losers; they are as deep as the ocean and as sharp as a box of tacks. Rosie takes us on a midnight ramble, with Mains letting rip on his geetar, while the band (inc. drummer Gary Ferguson) keep the beat like a steam-powered Rolex watch in the background; and with Sugar You they conjure up the intense excitement only encountered during the heights of seduction; making your heart and pulse pump in tandem until you think you’re having a heart attack! (or was that just me?)
Usually bands like this ‘lose something’ in the studio; but no, no, no ……The 44’s simply buzz with excitement and raw adrenaline on every single track here; especially on 44’s Shuffle which closes the all too short album; and the low down ‘n dirty Helsinki Blues which is by far and away the RMHQ Favourite Track here; and one I can’t wait to play after midnight in the car on my way home from work next week.
While The 44’s are very much their own distinctive variant on ‘Old School R&B’, they remind me of two very famous bands in their formative years …… The Rolling Stones and ZZ Top; when both where cutting their teeth and playing music just for fun and fun alone.
*The now demolished Broken Doll was, and still remains the greatest ever pub and music venue in Newcastle, with a clientele of Biker Dudes, office workers, down and outs, skinheads, dope heads …. and me!
Released May 17th 2019