BIG DADDY GUMBO
Maximum R&B From Swampland USA.
Like so many albums I receive I’d not heard of Tommy Dardar before receiving this album; but why would I? He played in and fronted bands in and around South Louisiana for aeons but sadly died in 2017 before these tracks originally recorded in 2001 would ever be released.
But after reading the accompanying Press Release and listening to the loving way his friends and family have re-worked and polished those recordings I really wish I could have not just seen him playing live; but even met the guy as he sounds a fascinating character.
I’m pretty sure the album artwork would have caught my eye in a record shop and if the man behind the counter played track #1 It’s Good To Be King I would gratefully have shelled out the £10 or so to buy whatever came next.
That song is an absolute doozy; opening with some stinging guitar from Johnny Lee Schell and when Tommy’s rich voice and most blues-wailin’ harmonica come in I knew instantly that this was music I would absolutely luuurve.
Oh boy, oh boy….oh boy songs like Baby I Can Tell and Shake a Leg are the type of Rocking Blues music fans like me fantasise about hearing coming from a downtown club somewhere South of the Mason-Dixon line while on holiday.
Then there is Dangerous Woman and C’mon Second Line; oohheee……are these cool or what? Dardar and friends produce the musical sounds that Van Morrison must hear in his head before he goes into a studio; but has failed to reproduce for 30+ years #fact.
Favourite track? How am I supposed to choose only one from this parcel of musical gems; but choose I must.
Perhaps the Honky-Tonk of Let’s Go Back to New Orleans; featuring the legendary Jon Cleary on piano and Tommy Dardar at his crooning best or will it be the funklicious Big Daddy Gumbo which closes the proceeding with even more sizzling guitar and saxophone than a man my age can handle; and don’t get me started on those sexy backing singers!
But I’m going for In My Mind; a slow burning sensual ballad that will bring tears to a glass eye and a song Tommy Dardar can proudly leave as his finest legacy, as is the record itself.
Released February 13th 2018
JUST LIKE MEDICINE
Singer-Songwriter Bares His Tattered Soul To The World.
OK let’s get it out in the open now; AJ Croce is the son of the legendary Jim Croce. Does that make a difference to what you are about to read? In theory no; but in practice yes; as you; like I, will sadly compare and contrast this singer-songwriter’s NINTH album with the work of his father whom he barely knew; as he died when the child was but 2 years old.
Hey…let’s get into the music and leave the rest for the historians and pedants.
I do love a strong album opener and Gotta Get Outta My Head ticks every box. A slow burning Bluesy N’Orleans Voodoo pot-boiler straight from the dark pits of the singers heart. A very naughty rhythm and a punchy piano combine with Croce’s raspy voice to draw you in like a moth to a flame.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise; but it was to see track #2 The Heart That Makes Me Whole is a co-write with family friend Leon Russell; as it sounds like Joe Cocker should have sounded on the Mad Dogs album; which makes it a winner at RMHQ.
When you check out the sleeve notes you find an array of household names make up AJ’s house-band (too many to name); and alongside the imperious production skills of the legendary Dan Penn their separate and combined qualities really shine on the tip o’ the hat to Randy Newman Full Up and the sultry Southern Soulful Hold You when Croce’s voice purrs and slurs like a Tom Cat on heat.
The track The Other Side of Love, with it’s rinky-dink almost Classical piano intro doesn’t just sound darkly beautiful but when you actually listen to the lyrics you know you are in the presence of a Master Craftsman.
To some degree Name of the Game is a song that this album hinges on; as it is the last complete song that Jim Croce completed, but never released. In my humble opinion it’s a brave decision for AJ Croce to include it here, as it casts a shadow over his own musings.
Without knowing the heritage the song fits in very well; but it’s actually Vince Gill’s sweet, sweet guitar playing that makes it stand out.
Our favourite song here though, is the beautiful title track Cures Just Like Medicine; touches spots I never expected to touch and showcases not just Croce’s writing skills but the full gamut of his vocal ministrations and a band so hot they actually sizzle in the background.
All in all this is the type of album I dream of buying; and just perfect for those warm Summer and Autumn nights when you just want the world to drift by on a haze of Mint Juleps and pine on the breeze.
Released August 11th 2017
I Got Your Medicine
The Good Doctor Prescribes Listening To This Funky Soulful Delight Daily!
This arrived in a week when I was inundated with CD’s to review yet I was instantly drawn to the cover artwork, showing a hirsute young man looking not unlike a young and natty Dr John, so into the player it went.
OOOOHHHEEE BABY! God sure does act in mysterious ways.
The title track I Got Your Medicine immediately swoops from the speakers the New Orleans gumbo music of Dr. John immediately sprang to mind as ex-Gourd Kevin Russell croons in a deep and loaded and, it has to be said….slightly sexy manner over a jazzy groove with plenty of Doo-Wop too from the backing singers. If I had heard this song on the car radio, I would have had to pull over.
I seem to be listening to a lot of Rhythm & Blues at the moment; and the world is a better place for it especially with amazing songs like Trouble, Trouble and the nod to Louis Jordan, Ambulance being out there in the ether just waiting to make your life a little bit better.
Music effects people in many ways; but I personally don’t listen to enough ‘happy music’ and that is the best way to describe
Shinyribs very much wear their influences on their sleeves, with I Gave it All Up For You being a delicious Fats Domino/Otis Redding hybrid……trust me it’s a rare song that gets me miming along while including dance moves and facial expressions, but this one did and still does.
I only wish I had the imagination and vocabulary to have described this style of music as Tub Gut Stomp & Red Eyed Soul; but thankfully Russell has and did as that is the title of one of the stand out tracks tucked away in the middle of the album.
Kevin Russell is a glorious songwriter but still includes three covers here; the heart-shredding interpretation of Ted Hawkins’ I Gave Up All I Had could easily be mistaken for Otis or Marvin in their heydays (as does the mournful Nothing Takes The Place of You); but another made go “What the Hell”, “No…it can’t be…it is” Shinyribs turn the RMHQ favourite the Yardbirds, A Certain Girl into a late night Bluesy Soul Destroyer…..which is probably what songwriter Allen Toussaint originally intended and it becomes a thing of rare beauty here.
Oh man; choosing a favourite is nearly impossible with the slow burning Hands on Your Hips being a contender; but the tongue in cheek ‘I love you and I hate you and can’t live without you’ call and response between Kevin Russell and Alice Spencer…..I Don’t Give a Shit is the winner by a funky country mile. It’s sure not made for radio but will be a guaranteed showstopper when played live.
Tinkling piano, an amazing voice, sexy backing singers, horns a plenty and meticulously groovy rhythm section all combine to make all of these dozen songs into a classic album that will more than likely be included in my Top 10 albums of the year.
Released February 24th 2017
Dom & The Ikos
Live (and Loose) at the Hippodrome
A Little Bit of New Orleans From Deep in the Heart of London Town.
Dom & The Ikos have been a firm favourite at RM Towers for a couple of years now; and their live shows are truly something to behold; so it was with baited breathe when we opened this package last week.
First of all the colourful artwork on the CD cover is certainly eye catching and goes some way to proving my Mam wrong; as you can judge this CD by the cover!
Opening track is the Iko’s jazzy and jaunty interpretation of Hank Williams’ Jambalaya; OK Country purists will probably get an attack of the vapours if they hear this; but I rather like this version.
Next up is a slow and soulful rendition of the Allen Toussaint classic; Get Out of My Life Woman; with Dom sounding like a smoother version of Georgie Fame; if I’m not mistaken.
Only two songs and we are already 15 minutes into the concert; but that’s what you get with the Iko’s; if a tune is worth playing; it’s also worth riffing on.
As usual there is very little between song chat; apart from the perfunctory odd introduction; but hey….it’s the music we want, not chatter.
Although this concert was recorded in 2014 (13th March to be precise) the band sound a lot more ‘mature’ and even ‘focused’ than some of the gigs I’ve seen; and tracks like Pipkin’s own Nothing But the Blues and my personal favourite Skinny Man Skank actually benefit from that approach; plus it makes for a live album that bears repeated plays; which is a bonus in my opinion.
The album comes in at just over an hour long and I presume audience applause has been judiciously edited out; as the likes of Those Lonely, Lonely Nights must surely have garnered a standing ovation, surely?
A wonderful concert comes to a close with Dom and the Iko’s tipping their collective hats to their mentor, Professor Longhair as they showcase their collective talents on a raucous and musically perfect Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Then the evening is wrapped up with their signature tune….Iko Iko; which had me tapping my feet; so I can only imagine that the dance-floor was jam packed with people shimmying, shaking and shuffling along to the finest New Orleans band never to come from Louisiana.
Released March 21st 2016