Capturing Old-School Rhythm & Blues Magic in a Bottle.
Apparently I received a copy of Canadian minstrel, Ms Danser’s previous album GOIN’ GONE in 2018; it’s there in my music files; but I can’t find a review in our back pages; and it’s rather good; and I’m familiar with a lot of the players on board too. Weird. I won’t make that mistake with ONE EYE OPEN; as it’s a bit of a doozy. First of all check out the cover; it really is a pre-cursor to what you get inside; starting with the late night groove of Way I Like It Done, with Kat shimmying her way through a Bump n Grind Blues that’s full of New Orleans style piano from Kevin McKendree and a funky-ass rhythm section. Things immediatly slow down on Track #2 Lonely & The Dragon; and while it’s probably the coolest song here; it will leave the average male listener coming out in a hot sweat as Kat Danser purrs her story like she-cat on heat. Do you get a sense that this is no ordinary Blues release? Each time I’ve played it something new has disentangled making me go back to the start of the track to get the best out of it. While it’s difficult to put all of these tracks into one single basket; it’s fair to say between Kat and producer Steve Dawson they have delved into the hey days of Classic Rhythm & Blues, to come up with a very switched on and contemporay release; with the punchy Trainwreck and the righteous Gospel Blues mantra of Get Right Church sandwiching a Punk infused One Eyed Closed; yet all being closely related via Kat Danser’s fabulous genetics and Steve Dawson’s skills on the guitar. With so much on offer to choose from as a Favourite Track where do I start? Album finale Mi Corazon, sung in a haunting Spanish, is as left of centre as the Blues gets and has tickled my taste buds a few times now. Frenchman Street Shake needs to be played L.O.U.D to get the best from it; not that it’s a ‘rocker’ Hell; it’s almost the opposite as it’s the epitome of good time New Orleans music with added geetar and funky horns; but the joy it evokes needs to be shared with your neighbours at every opportunity! Then again, Bring It With You When You Come is as slinky as it is old-school groovelicious and even a tiny bit licentious too. But, being the soppy old sod I am, I think I’m going for the heart-breaking ballad Please Don’t Cry with its swirling Hammond back-beat accompanied by a subtly supportive bass and drums ; which bizarrely sounds like Dusty singing Patsy in a sleazy Havana cocktail lounge circa 1960; and that’s exactly the imagery I would give an accompanying video …… but I am a hopeless romantic at heart. For what sounds like a simply produced album; spanning several studios and homes during lockdown Steve Dawson has managed to capture some ‘real magic in a bottle’ here; and made me, for one want to trawl back through Kat Danser’s back catalogue to see if anything matches these apparent career highlights.
Wily Bo Walker and Danny Flam AIN’T NO MAN A GOOD MAN (Deluxe Edition) Self-Release
Taking British R&B to a Whole New Swampy and Rapscallion Level.
I can’t keep up date with Wily Bo Walker’s musical releases. Sometimes they are brand new songs and others remixes and AIN’T NO MAN A GOOD MAN (Deluxe Edition) is a wonderful hybrid of the two; with album #1 being all new songs featuring Wily Bo and the Danny Flam Big Band while album #2 is full of yet more re-mixes of Mr Walkers recent songs put through the veritable musical mixer. So, let’s start with the new stuff; which is why you will be parting with your hard earned pocket money. The title track Ain’t No Man a Good Man storms out of the speakers and not just grabs you by the throat; but shakes you to the core and hardly leaving you able to breathe. Walker’s expressive and rasping vocals are marched perfectly by Danny Flam’s Big Band and perhaps it takes such a big sound to bring out the best in not just his words, but Walker’s vocal enthusings too ……. as he ain’t sounded much better than this! The themes here are not just very cinematic but timeless and full of raw energy, none more so than the swinging R&B of Velvet Windows (Treme Trippin’) which fair rattled the office window when turned up to 9. When you hear songs like Fool For You (2020 Hindsight) and Ain’t Hungry No More you will wonder why the grave voiced Wily Bo and the majestic Danny Flam Big Band don’t have their own Saturday night TV Show; but sometimes we like to keep some things a secret, don’t we? It’s far too obvious to compare this album to Dr. John’s output; but there certainly is plenty of Gris Gris in Did I Forget (to tell you I love you?) and Time to Forget You; but to these ears, there’s more than a smidgen of Georgie Fame and Zoot Money in their too; making this British R&B on steroids! If you even vaguely like Van Morrison’s Big Band excursions, you will simply love Wily Bo’s sultry and storming version of St. James’ Infirmary Blues to death! Album #1 closes with an amazing reinvention of Build My Gallows (Ain’t No Return) and on any other album this dark and brooding five minutes would easily be my Favourite Track, but …….. there’s the enigmatic Night of The Hunter which is most obviously thematically linked to the film of the same name; and certainly lives up to its Film Noir credentials too. Historically I’m not re-disposed to re-mixes of songs; but here I can’t urge you strongly enough to buy the Deluxe Version or else you will miss out on hearing I Want To Know (NY Funk Mix) and When the Angels Call Your Name (Bourbon Street Mix) as both sizzle like a bloody steak on a red hot BBQ. Drive (Two Lane Blacktop Mix) and Walk In Chinese Footsteps both deserve a courteous mention too; with the latter making me hunt out my old Was Not Was 12″ singles for the first time in years. I’ve always loved Bo Diddley; but never imagined someone could re-imagine Who Do You Love? in the way Wily Bo does with his NYC Chiller Mix; but it’s truly amazing ……… think of it as a Michael Jackson/Tom Waits mash-up featuring Miles Davis and the Meters then mixed by Aaron Neville! Then; last but not least there is the majestic For The Children which I don’t believe I’ve heard before in any guise; but have fallen head over heals in love with. There you have it, Wily Bo Walker (and friends) have come right out of left field to deliver not just one; but two stunning new albums that I can’t recommend highly enough.
Blues Escape ft Johanna Lillvik BLUES ESCAPE Paraply Records
The Coolest Scandi’ Boogie-Woogie Jazz Blues You Will Ever Here.
Here’s a thing! Who knew that there was a vibrant Blues and Jazz scene in Scandinavia? Obviously there’s no reason there wouldn’t be, but it’s never crossed my path before and took me by surprise when I received this album a few weeks ago. The result of a meeting between the versatile artist Johanna Lillvik and blues band Hill Blue Unit at Alingsås jazz club (Sweden) in November 2016. It was the 1st time that Johanna had sang blues and jazz in public and the collaboration was only expected to last for one concert but here we are, many gigs and festivals later with a scintillating debut album. Erring more on the Boogie-Woogie and Jazzier tinges of The Blues, revolving around Orjan Hill’s rinky-dink piano. Torban Stenson’s dazzling sax playing and Johanna’s gutsy vocals opener, Evil Gal Blues bounces around like a mischievous musical imp, leaving you in no doubt about the combined talent on show here. Quite often this type of Jazz-Blues is best heard in a live setting; which I’m sure is true here too; but when you hear Johanna’s sultry delivery of That’s How I Got My Man and Trouble in Mind, especially if your lights are turned way down low and you are onto your third glass of something strong and alcoholic the recorded artifact comes into its very own too. While I recognise some of the songwriters names, the only song I think I’ve heard before is the razzle-dazzling Pig Foot Pete; and this merry combo certainly do it justice. With music of this ilk, there’s never any room for error; but while note perfect and constructed like a house of cards; there is still plenty of Soul and passion in everything on offer; and in the case of The Dream/Marie Laveau it sounds quite uncanny the way the instruments and Lillvik’s fascinating voice (a sexy mix of English with Swedish enunciation) combine to make music that should only come from the Southern States of America. This only leaves one song; and in some ways an odd choice for Favourite Track status; but I do like ‘left of centre’ and Junker Blues fits that bill like a delicate hand in a velvet glove. Somewhere in my collection I actually own a CD called REEFER SONGS, and most are in this vein (sic) but there’s something about the way Johanna Lillvik and the multi-talented chaps around her combine make shivers run up and down your back, as your toes tap and your lips mouth the chorus. I’ve always had eclectic taste music wise; and I think I’ve fallen in love with not just Johanna Lillvik but Hill Blue Unit; and when they come together as Blues Escape my world just got a little bit better, one fabulous song at a time.
Dr. John Ske-Dat-De-Dat (The Spirit of Satch) The Last Record Company
The Good Doctor Updates Satchmo’s Legendary Tunes.
June 6th 2020 will mark the first anniversary of the passing of Mac Rebennack — known throughout the World as Dr. John. A day prior, on June 5, 2020, The Last Music Company will release a commemorative limited vinyl edition of Ske Dat De Dat worldwide.
HERE’S MY REVIEW OF THE ORIGINAL RELEASE, WAY BACK IN 2014.
If you are going to record something as iconic as the Louis Armstrong songbook you better have some big colones and some pretty damn fresh ideas ……….. thankfully Dr. John had both. The gauntlet is thrown down on the opening track What a Wonderful World which features Nicholas Payton and the Blind Boys of Alabama supporting Mac Rebbenack; who turns a much parodied Classic into a cool slice of New Orleans swing, while still majestically retaining the joy of the original. Every song features the inimitable Dr. John singing and playing piano alongside a vast array of guest musicians and singers who each add their own unique skill sets; such as I’ve Got the World on a String which becomes a swinging duet with Bonnie Raitt; who sounds uncannily like a lusty Sarah Vaughan and later the duet with Shemekiah Coleman turns Sweet Honk O’ Trash into an X-rated Southern Soul standard. Just to confuse the Jazz Heads out there, Mack the Knife has the Good Doctor crossing vocal swords with Terence Blanchard who actually Raps his lines over some sweet crashing Jazz chords. I wasn’t aware of several of the singers here, but each one appears to have been chosen because they have a voice or a style that compliments both Dr. John and Satchmo himself. The arrangement on Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child is just the right side of modern Jazz to make it both commercial and delightful as Anthony Hamilton’s voice swoops and soars as Dr. John leads some of Americas finest Jazz musicians with his superb playing on the electric piano. What else could Ske-Dat-De-Dat end with apart from When You’re Smiling and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band blast out a good old fashioned New Orleans Jazz Band rendition that will not only make you shed tears of joy but also make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. The overall album is like a magic jigsaw with each track standing on its own merits but when listened to as a complete entity will take listeners into a whole new stratosphere.
TRACK LISTING: 1. What a Wonderful World (4:11) w/ The Blind Boys of Alabama and Nicholas Payton 2. Mack the Knife (6:13) w/ Mike Ladd and Terrence Blanchard 3. Tight Like This (4:52) w/ Telmary and Arturo Sandoval 4. I’ve Got the World on a String (4:04) w/ Bonnie Raitt 5. Gut Bucket Blues (2:47) w/ Nicholas Payton 6. Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (4:45) w/ Anthony Hamilton 7. That’s My Home (3:55) w/ The McCrary Sisters and Wendell Brunious 8. Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen (4:37) w/ The McCrary Sisters and Ledisi 9. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams (6:36) w//The Blind Boys of Alabama and Terrance Blanchard 10. Dippermouth Blues (4:28) w/ James “12” Andrews 11. Sweet Hunk O’Trash (4:19) w/ Shemekia Copeland 12. Memories of You (5:03) w/ Arturo Sandoval 13. When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles with You) (2:42) w/ The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
originally Released Europe September 1st 2014 Released on Vinyl June 5th 2020