Sunday, 26 May 2019

Black Oak Arkansas - Underdog Heroes, album review

Keeping the Faith

This is a paradox of an album – not good/bad; I think it is damn good – but in the polished/raw qualities it relays: the polish of its production, and the rawness that is inherent in the bass-growl of Jim ‘Dandy’ Mangrum’s signature vocal, here foregrounded throughout and often echoed-up for sustaining effect. ‘To The Rescue’ indeed. There is often a talking pace to the delivery, as in the dirtiest walk of The Wrong Side of Midnight, like Beefheart on a tab of sass. Great vocal support from Sammy B. Seauphine.

Rickie Lee Reynolds and his excellent guitar playing also provides a significant anchor to this album’s success, for example superbly on opener Don’t Let it Show, as is the shredded lightning of a contribution from Shawn Lane [who passed in 2003] on Do Unto Others.

Another ‘narrative’ offering is third track Channeling Spirits paying talking homage to other musicians, and this is a sweetly resonant song intoning a lineage from a range of artists. Reynolds’ guitar work on this is a glorious overlay of lead.

Next Ruby’s Heartbreaker is written about former band member Ruby Starr, a hugely powerful vocalist in her own right, and this is a dynamite tribute, using wonderful catches from the chorus of Grand Funk Railroad’s Heartbreaker as well as Reynolds in Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel mode. An earlier posting of mine about Ruby can be read here.

If you want it real dirty – so that’s hot ‘n’ nasty – check out The Devil’s Daughter with Seauphine featured on vocal. With lines such as like a blow job from hell, but boy I’ll bite off your balls it is the lyrical poetry of ‘don’t take this too seriously – just fucking enjoy’.

And I am. Nostalgic and nostalgia notwithstanding.

My review of Keep the Faith as a favourite all-time album here.

Two Faces Music 25

Gin Lady - Tall Sun Crooked Moon, album review


A Swedish band presenting the most authentic time-warp back to 60s/70s American west-coast harmony rock: opener Everyone is Love lyrically rooted to this musical philosophy. The written assertion may not have been realised [well, in Trumpland, most definitely not] but the echo of Doobies, Outlaws, CSN&Y et al certainly has and is.

Second track Sweet Country Livin’ doesn’t try to conceal its other roots with wording and contraction, and we are on the same broad road, here more Matthews Southern Comfort, but you get the trajectory. With third The Darkest Days of All Time we are certain of our listening trajectory. Fifth Gentle Bird reminds how hints of the blues are also always a part of this lineage, here actually having in its harmonised form and piano thumped chorus a differing intimation of the Beatles. You continue to get the gist.

Generic and formulaic, yes, but then that is why you would be listening.

Hear and buy at the band's Bandcamp page.

No Face Music 26

Friday, 24 May 2019

Christian Brewer at the Blue Vanguard Jazz Club, Gipsy Hill Hotel, Exeter, 23rd May, 2019

Velvet Red Bop and Baby Blue Ballads

The GH Hotel lounge walls have been transformed in baby blue, as have a variety of new cushions and chairs, and I wanted to think of American ‘57 Chevy Cool, but others corrupted that image with allusions of their own. However, in the playing room the curtains over side doors and at the performance end were their familiar velvet crimson-red, like rows of smoking jackets hung to coalesce with the smokin’ set that would be underscored, as ever, by the Blue Vanguard Trio. I can only repeat: the various soloing was exemplary, as were the accompaniments to all songs intuited by jazz knowing rather than lengthy rehearsal.

Last night’s guest was Christian Brewer, a saxophonist who played with blistering pace and gusto on a number of interpreted standards, as well as beautiful touch and feel on a couple of ballads. Never good at remembering titles, I am good at remembering the class of what I hear, and he treated us to many classy moments. It is always good to see the guest artists being so appreciative of the house band, as Brewer so obviously was, and of course it is the amalgam of such fine musicianship that makes these evenings so superb to attend.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Steering Wheel Music 15

Charlie Hunter & Lucy Woodward - Music! Music! Music!, album review

Funky Cigarette

I am going to start with total honesty – though I am always honest with my reviews – but I didn’t know what to expect with this, unaware of either artists [no matter how much music you know, you cannot know everything/everyone, obviously], yet write-ups were good. Then there was the album title: rather simplistic. And I know a thing or two about the power of three, but this repetition of the obvious didn’t inspire a sense of there being inspiration.

Then I wasn’t sure I could get past the first track, a cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s Soul of Man. I mean, it is that good: the funky percussiveness of the guitar work [with punchy bass and drums in perfect step] and occasional startling runs; also the singing, its soulful sultriness and sass. Where could this go any better?

By the third track, Nina Simone’s Plain Gold Ring, it is sustaining the superlatives I haven’t yet used but you can hear them, surely? A slower groove, percussion and bass gently rhythmic, and the guitar cuts in and out, interrupting the smoother vocal with its demands, the two in perfect co-existence. You wait for the explosion, just after the bass rises along a key change, and barely held fuzzed picks are prone to strike, reverb holding it in check. Then it releases, controlled, again percussion in sweet accompaniment: plain gold ring returns to sooth in the other controlling emotion of vocal.

Then there’s Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, a song so soulfully funked in its origins it doesn’t seem transcendable. It isn’t, but it is complemented with the by-now perfection of this duo’s [with support] tight interpretations. Hunter’s guitar here goes a little more expansive, but funkiness is a core motivation. The vocal’s intentions are more than still good.

Wishing Well? Terence Trent Darby. Really [a song imbued with its own soul and f... – you know the word]? Actually, this tones it down a tad, but continues to work, Woodward here stages the distinctiveness of the cover.

There’s blues too and the whole is its own perfection. The final track is Teresa Brewer’s (Put Another Nickel In) Music, Music, Music [Bernie Baum / Stephan Weiss], inverted here and now I know the significance of the album’s title, though by this time I have worked that out by being so convinced in the listening. This is in fact the most sedate, a relative term, and in one sense ‘faithful’ cover. I think it is like having that cigarette afterwards.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Eye Music 41

Seba Kaapstad - Thina, album review

Smooth & Smooth

This is a collage of smooth jazz and hip hop and smooth R&B and soul and smooth smooth – you get the feel: melodic soundscapes driven sometimes by off-centre rhythms and dissonant chord interchanges that merge with pop vocal and layered vocal and sampled vocal and echoed vocal and most often sweetly beautiful vocal from Zoe Modiga, this complemented by the singing of Ndumiso Manana. There are ‘orchestral’ additions like the violin by Sophie Schuster and violoncello by Felix Brade on the gorgeous track Don’t.

Described on their Bandcamp page as ‘a multi-national neo-soul quartet comprised of a South African, a Swazi, and two Germans’, further evocations of mellowness and experimentation and polyrhythms are apt deeper textures to what I have already described. The vocals of Manana and Modiga on Dezaster glide along and within synthesised and programmed beats/rhythms in a perfect amalgam of the natural and the electronic.

Welcome to this wonderful music life.

Treat yourself to some peaceful ease as well as perfect upbeat grooves by listening and purchasing here.