Only Blues Music (Australia)
Soul Sister and Heartbreaker Extraordinaire.
As an old Soul Boy; finding good high quality Soul Music these days is becoming increasingly difficult, as the majority of what is being called R&B ain’t really got Rhythm and certainly isn’t what I call The Blues!
My appetite was sated a recently when I accidentally discovered a label called Ecko Records which released some really saucy and sassy albums by acts like Miss Jody, Sheba Potts-Wright and (my favourite) Barbara Carr, but it appears to have sunk without trace; leaving me with my old record collection for solace.
So it was with great delight when my favourite Blues PR man, Frank Roszack sent me this terrific album by Sri-Lankan born and Australian brought up, musical powerhouse Andrea Marr.
Even the cover artwork will get Soul aficionados blood pumping and when opening track Force of Nature comes blasting out of the speakers feet all over the world will twitch and tap as hips shake like leaves in a storm.
Andrea Marr and The Funky Hitmen sure know how to get a party started as they use every trick in the book with their swinging horn section and a firecracker guitarist coupled to a steam powered organ, drummer and bassist giving Andrea’s amazing voice a backing it well deserves.
Track #2 will give you a real idea about where Ms Marr is coming from as she tears away all of the Pop trappings from Aretha’s Rock Steady and turns it into the sassy Rhythm AND Blues song of seduction it was always meant to be!
As with all the great Soul that came out of Stax and Atlantic in that halcyon bygone age and what Daptone Records currently do better than anyone else, Miss Andrea Marr combines passion, energy and S-O-U-L with melodies and hooks to die for on What Do I Have To Do and Mama Gets It Wrong Sometimes Too, but it’s when she writes and sings from and about the heart this album surpasses any similar releases in the last 20 years.
That’s Where Love Ends and Sticks and Stones are both the type of slow song I wanted to hear when the lights went down low at the end of the night in a Club or at a party.
While not as ribald as those Ecko albums I love, Andrea includes a couple of earthy songs of seduction in Good Man and the quaintly titled Let’s Take It To The Bedroom, when she shows she’s a lady that knows what she wants and…..trust me; she’s going get what SHE wants!
That last song was very nearly (and probably should be) my favourite track here; but I’m actually going for something a bit left of centre with Grateful; a rather beautiful bittersweet love song that evokes memories of discovering the delights of Aretha, Phyllis Nelson and, of course more recently Sharon Jones; and now Andrea Marr appears to have the same ability to touch my heart with her magical words and phrasing too.
Released October 31st 2017
BORN IN OAKLAND
Mule Slide Records
After 30 Years The Kings of Frisco Blues Still Swing Like a Swiss Watch.
Some days I just love this job!
Mrs. Magpie wasn’t too happy with me earlier in the week because the pile of padded envelopes was stacking up in the kitchen; so I disappeared into the backroom with a strong cup of coffee and began downloading and logging the contents. After looking at 11 CD covers of acts I’d never heard of I took this one out of the packet, and there was ‘something’ about the cover artwork that caught my attention…..the band name? The harmonica? Who knows but as it downloaded I pressed ‘play’…..BIFF….BAP….POW! The opening salvo hit me like a 1960’s Batman episode.
That song, Sunny Day is way beyond ‘cool’…..way, way beyond. A swampy horn section, bass and drums from a building site, sizzling guitars and a singer with a voice that sounds like it has lived a life all of it’s very own……..more coffee was ordered and I settled in for an hour of classy, gorgeous Rhythm AND Blues.
Track two Fine and Healthy Thing bizarrely sounds like a funky Van Morrison fronting the Glenn Miller Orchestra; and coming from someone whose Mother loved the Big Band Sound; that’s as good a compliment as I give.
My, oh my Delta Wires can not only play a tune but write a damn fine song too……the love songs Your Eyes and Fun Time are both pure midnight magic; making your toes tap and your loins twitch ……if you know what I mean 😉
I very nearly chose the hiptastic Days of the Week as my favourite track; not just because of singer and bandleader Ernie Pinata’s lung busting harmonica playing that somehow leaves just enough energy to sing about waiting for Friday night.
But I’m going for the sensual and Soulful Devil’s in my Headset because……just….because. It’s a doozy and ….well….sometimes you just fall in love with a sound; and fall in love I most certainly have.
Even on that first play the quality of the individual musicians shone though on every song; with I Don’t Care and Vacation really and truly showcasing their combined efforts and Pinata really sings his heart out on album closer All I Have To Give.
If you take Jools Holland out of the equation this type of R&B doesn’t exist in the UK any-more; which is a shame because this is the music that I grew up with back in the late 70’s in the pubs and clubs of Durham and Tyneside and my gateway to The Blues of BB King etc.
I doubt Delta Wires will ever visit NE England; so I guess I will have to check flights and hotels for a trip to SF sometime soon.
Released June 30th 2017
Glenn Alexander & Shadowland
Rainbows Revenge Records
Enough Rhythm & Blues Infused Soul To Make Your Heart Burst.
I haven’t got the time to listen to every album I receive, never mind review them so some rare gems get lost to the Oxfam shop; which is nearly what happened here, but there was something about the cover and song titles that made me give it a try.
Yippee Whey Aye Man!!!
I knew in the first 15 seconds that this was for me; cool swishing guitars and red hot horn section hit me like a left hook; and when Glenn Alexander’s rough around the edges voice joined them I was out for the musical count.
That song If Your Phone Don’t Ring, a swinging Rhythm and Blues deluxe song would be the highlight of many albums; but here it’s just a taster for what is to come.
Memphis Soul is ‘just what it says on the tin’ but with added ‘twang’; and the low and slow Blues For You & Me and Big Boss Man are the type of suburban Chicago Blues I fell in love with 40+ years ago; and this gorgeous duet between Glenn and Orio is absolutely delicious.
The band can get low down and funky with the best of them and when needed they can pick up the pace too and make your feet twitch and shake on Get Up and the razzle dazzling The Odds Are Good.
As connoisseurs would expect, classy R&B and Soul tends to be primarily about Luuurve…..good Luuurve and bad Luuurve; and Glenn Alexander doesn’t disappoint on that front with The Odds are Good and the red hot Get a Life which features Southside Johnny on mouth harp, being prime examples; but the title of ‘Favourite Song’ goes to the soulful groove of I Picked The Wrong Day (To Stop Drinking). It’s as sad as it’s beautiful with Gospel style harmonies and a wailing B3 Organ in the background. Who among us doesn’t love a tearjerker and heartbreaker like this?
As my Father used to say “God moves in mysterious ways” and that is certainly true here; as this CD was in a box destined for the Charity Shop when something made me take it back out……and I’m mighty pleased I did; and you will be too.
Released January 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
Nine Below Zero
13 Shades of Blue
White Knuckle Rollercoaster Ride Around The Blues.
Well! I wasn’t expecting that….or that or, indeed this; as 13 Shades of Blue opens with a sizzling slice of Funk; albeit with a Bluesy back bone, but Funk none the less. Don’t Lay Your Funky Trip On Me was probably the last thing I’d have thought Britain’s foremost R&B Band would open an album with; but why not? They have treading the boards since 1977 and have evolved from the ‘four to the floor’ ‘sweaty bar-band’ that won my heart at the legendary Riverside Club in Newcastle that year.
Now I’ve got my head around the completely diverse tracks that make up the album, Track #1 makes a lot more sense with Dennis Greaves distinctive voice serenading his wife Helen on backing vocals and harmonies as Mark Feltham trades harmonica licks with Adam Davey and Tom Waters on Alto-sax and Jeff Brown’s soulful trumpet. There’s a lot going on; but every second is pure magic.
The band go on to shimmy and glide through every Blues format known to man (apart from Delta Blues) with the greatest of ease, with friends aplenty adding an array of instruments not normally associated with not just the band; but da’ Blues itself.
Although not as raw as their legendary live performances, the band do include several Blues tunes with a hefty dose of Rhythm. Greaves guitar sparkles on You’re Still My Woman and his vocals could be straight out of Chess studios and later My Woman Is Good To Me sees Feltham blowing the reeds out of his harp, just like the fans love to hear.
My head was spinning by the time I first heard their cover of Allen Toussaint’s Hercules; as it’s a song I associate with the Jazz-Funk of my early 20’s but Nine Below Zero keep the beat, but add a late night Bluesy vibe to this beautiful song.
Although I don’t know the original but It’s Your Voodoo Working, makes a delicious accompaniment to that dish, with the brass section swinging like a leaf in a storm.
(Nice) Surprises like that come thick and fast, with John Mayall’s toe-tapping Crawling Up a Hill being dragged out of the cupboard and getting a new lease of life as the band pay homage to the Godfather of British Blues.
Surprises? What about Glen Tilbrook from Beat-Combo The Squeeze adding sitar to the normally standard R&B ballad That’s What Love Will Do For You? Who knew it would work, but it does, turning an above average song into a barnstormer.
I definitely love that opening track; but the title of RM ‘Favourite Track’ is a tie between the smouldering duet Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) between Dennis and Helen, with the band, and again harmonica player Mark Feltham in particular showing the world why the Blues is as sexy as Hell!
The other song, oddly enough is an instrumental…The Toddle. Here Feltham gets to shine in the spotlight, as he takes us on a cool shuffle that will have even the most boring among us shaking a tail-feather….baby.
It did take three or four plays to get my head around 13 Shades of Blue; but that was only because I had pigeon-holed the band who are actually, so, so much more than an average Blues Band churning out hits and classics to ever dwindling audiences. Nine Below Zero have grown and evolved over the last 40 years (how long???) and this album showcases their talents in all of their glory.
Released September 30th 2016
James Hunter Six
Quality Rhythm, Blues, Soul and a little bit of Rock & Roll to Kick Start 2016!
I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was to receive this album a couple of months ago; and keeping it a secret until now has been quite painful.
I first discovered the delights of this young man 20+ years ago when he was the quaintly monickered Howlin’ Wilf; and a stalwart of the Jumping Hot Club in Newcastle. Since his re-branding as James Hunter his career and quality of albums has thankfully gone from strength to strength.
The rocking If That Don’t Tell You is atypical James Hunter; but better in some strange; mystical way. The production is pin-sharp; allowing the five band members to surround the singer-guitarist with a Wall of Sound not heard in these parts for many years.
Personally I would have placed This is Where We Came In as the opening track; primarily because of the amazing organ intro; followed by the double sax’s of long time side-kicks, Lee Badau and Damian Hand coupled with the sweet Nova tune and the feel of a lovely sentimental song.
James has always had a romantic side; and just about every song here is a timeless love song, in one way or another with A Truer Heart and Light of My Life being quintessential James Hunter; but managing to mine a new seam with his deep lyrics.
The mood swings back and forth from start to finish with high energy R&B songs like (Baby) Hold on and Free Your Mind; both crying out to be played live; while A Truer Heart is a perfect soundtrack for late at night.
Something brand new is the instrumental Satchel Foot; which allows the band to ‘let rip’ in a controlled manner and well worthy of those cool tunes on Bluenote ‘back in the day.’
It’s not easy for me to select a favourite track; as I love them all but In The Dark; which closes Hold On! is as slow, sultry and sexy as the guys have ever sounded; with Andrew Kingsland’s organ sounding like Booker T on a great day.
James Hunter has never wavered from his belief in playing authentic Rhythm and Blues; and it may have cost him dearly some years ago; but now with this; his fourth album with the same amazing band he must surely be on the cusp of monetary success to go along with all of the hearts he’s won in the last 25 years.
As an unadulterated fanboy, I didn’t think he was doing any wrong with his recordings; but now he’s signed to the near legendary Daptone record label and Bosco Mann (aka Gabriel Roth) has taken over the controls – WOW – they have combined to create a little bit of a Masterpiece.
Released February 5th 2016