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Reaching For The Light

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Reaching For The Light

King King

Manhaton Records

Scotland’s…no, make that the world’s hardest working band King King return with their third studio album, ‘Reaching For The Light’. Return is not really the correct choice of word here as the band, comprising of Alan Nimmo (vocals/guitar), Lindsay Coulson (bass), Wayne Proctor (drums) and Bob Fridzema (keyboards), has hardly been away after a successful 2014, which saw the plaudits rain down on them at the British Blues Awards with accolades for Best Album and Best Band as well as successful headline shows and serving as support act for John Mayall. With no time for rest, King King ended up writing the majority of ‘Reaching For The Light’ when the odd day presented itself from an otherwise busy touring schedule; hence the aforementioned title bestowed upon them of hardest working band. It’s not all about hard work when it comes to King King as they have proven time and again that they have the skills and musicianship to match in the toolbox marked blues-rock. While such a label can be applied to album number three, there is a definite shift in tempo with a number of tracks taking a more reflective stance backed with calmer rhythms. Opening song ‘Hurricane’, however, is at odds with such a description as it’s a pounding rock number that backs Alan Nimmo’s explanation of King King’s tendency of “delving more into a classic rock style” during the making of ‘Reaching For The Light’. A similar approach is given to the rocky guitar that does a perfect job of cranking up the emotions of ‘Rush Hour’. The previously mentioned blues-rock makes an appearance, but not as directly as before because it’s the greater influence of rock music that takes overall charge and where this song differs from their previous works. For our money though, ‘Reaching For The light’ reveals its strengths during its less hasty moments, with such examples as the tender ballad ‘Lay With Me’ and mild, soulful rhythm of ‘Waking Up’ that really shows a desire to get back up on its feet due to coming to its senses. Pick of a very good bunch, however, is reserved for ‘You Stopped The Rain’ which finds Alan Nimmo in contemplative mode, revealing a genuine fragility in his vocals as he’s full of admiration for the person at the centre of this song undergoing such adversity. Rather than holding steadfast to a tried and trusted formula that has provided successful to date, King King up their game by throwing a few more ingredients into the melting pot, which shows their fondness for classic rock, but also reveals a tender side that really does show the band at their best.


Guitar Player

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Guitar Player

Nico Duportal and his Rhythm Dudes

Rhythm Bomb

After a successful introduction via a 4-track EP, the first full-length album from Nico Duportal and his Rhythm Dudes hits the shelves. Serving up a rhythm and blues affair from days of old, the six-piece unit have put together a collection of twelve songs, six of them original compositions, with an abundance of skill and flair. There is much enthusiasm whether in the vocals of Nico Duportal or the band’s playing, which has a great knack of delivering an authentic sound. This whole experience is probably best gained from the album’s second track, ‘Lost In The Game’, where the vocals are heady with emotion, “Lost in the game, I don’t know what to do”, with superb guitar and parping horns maintaining the song’s zestful rhythm. It’s yet more knockout vocals that accompany the specific topic of ‘Polish Woman’, where there’s a real oomph in the back of Duportal’s throat and the guitar appears to momentarily trip away on a thread of its own and letting out a rawer sound. The mood is of a different nature during ‘Oh Baby’ as it leans back and lets a deeper blues in, with the guitar illustrating a lot of the emotions held here; hence the album’s title. ‘Can’t Afford To Lose Her’ provides the only real blip in an otherwise strong set, as it’s a little too samey with the band never manoeuvring out of second gear. Initially, ‘She Knows How’ gives the same impression, only this time there’s something charming about its rhythm, coupled with Duportal’s vocal which pulls the listener in with a mixture of relief and joy and it’s truly magnificent stuff! It looks like the success of the first EP was no accident as Nico Duportal and his Rhythm Dudes have another successful record on their hands with ‘Guitar Player’.


Carl Bradychok

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Carl Bradychok

Carl Bradychok

Bradychok Music

Just before anyone gets all hot under the collar, the indie tag applied to Carl Bradychok’s self-titled debut album reflects both the status of this release (i.e. independent) in addition to the pick ‘n’ mix of genres chosen. Rightly, as its press release declares, the man at the centre of this long player feels a sense of unease at the thought of being ‘clumped in to one genre of music’ with rockabilly being the main source of contention here. Negative connotations aside, there are examples as clear as daylight where rockabilly exerts its influence, with the intent held of ‘Do Me No Wrong’ being one of the most obvious candidates. Elsewhere, the confident swagger in the rhythm of, ‘The Way I Walk’ complete with nice backing vocals, is balanced appropriately with the opposite sound of ‘Please Give Me Something’, due to the edginess of the guitars with hints of Johnny Burnette and The Rock ‘N Roll Trio, and occasional hollers in the lead vocal adding to the pleading nature of this particular song. Having indicated a definite pulse to the aforementioned track, the country ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ falls flat due to a lack of conviction in the vocals. Balance is soon restored, however, with the excellent instrumental ‘Malaga’ with Bradychok this time allowing his guitar to do the talking. ‘You Ask Me To’ allows for more country but offers a different approach with its singular vocal kicking things off, before walking the listener through what sounds like a personal song where great affection is expressed. Country is the obvious choice when presented with the song title ‘Heartaches By The Number’, which contains some clever lyrics when counting through the number of distresses involved. With two more instrumentals presenting themselves – ‘Double Agent’ and ‘After Five’ – and concluding with the philosophical ‘End Of The World’ which, by the way, is the clearest indicator that Bradychok’s music is anything but straight rockabilly considering its American alternative-rock (and pop) references. The debut album by Carl Bradychok is to be admired for its technical abilities, strong song writing and for its daring to include broader references that should appeal to a wider audience rather in the same way that one Brian Setzer has managed so successfully.


Before Before

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Before Before

Infinity Broke

Come To The Darkside Luke

Encased in complete blackness and close to resembling the Jet Black Machine Vince Taylor roared about so convincingly which, in hindsight, was more likely a reference to his mind set and the downward spiral his life was taking, latest release from Australia’s Infinity Broke follows quickly on the heels of debut album ‘River Mirrors’. The rapidness at which this second effort was assembled is due to the fact that the majority of songs were conceived during the same time period as its aforementioned predecessor, with lead singer Jamie Hutchings in charge of production and Chris Colquhoun responsible for engineering once again. Despite the close association of the two sets of recordings, the difference in terms of the two albums is clearly noticeable. With its blackened and almost indistinguishable exterior not giving much away, it’s left to the nine listed songs to provide some insight. Gone is the looseness and sonic explorations as ‘Before Before’ is a more concise beast, with an overall shorter running time and songs kept on a tighter leash. Recent single ‘Only The Desert Grows’ is a perfect example of this with its rolling, tumbling rhythm and a strong indication that Infinity Broke know how to write a more direct composition that is probably the closet they will get to acceptance on the airwaves. ‘Cinder Borne’ is among the highlights; its blackened emotions smudged and giving off signals relating to a number of compulsions while a machinelike rhythm pounds away. The wrecked emotions lights its trail to the noise passage ‘Domestik’, which gives the impression of stumbling through a dream and reiterating once more a fondness for previous work ‘Double Yellow Tarred’. In addition, the blurring of lines does its best when trying to identify song titles as the almost illegible ‘Dogfall’ is weighed down with a heaviness best illustrated by the muscular guitar which pretty much retains control throughout. ‘Ladybug’ flitters through a series of memories and provides a lighter moment via its acoustic guitar, but is far from sounding straightforward. Rather than sounding like the leftovers of previous album ‘River Mirrors’, considering the back-to-back recordings of both album sessions, ‘Before Before’ stands up in its own right and without question leaves its previous album in its wake.


The Space Sessions

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The Space Sessions

The Satellites

El Toro

Taking the listener on an orbit around planet bop is The Satellites with their ‘The Space Sessions’ long player. Steeped in an authentic rockabilly sound with added blues, The Satellites offer eleven songs to keep those entertained who are willing to accompany them on this 50s-styled galactic mission rocketing back in time. First stop is the foot-tapping rhythm of appropriately titled ‘Satellite Bop’,  which then sees the band take a slight detour with a cover of The Dreamers melding of doo-wop and rockabilly ‘Ding Dong (Du-Wadi-Wadi)’. The choice of cover songs remains impeccable throughout and offers a voyage of discovery for those looking to delve further in relation to the history books, with The Satellites applying a highly engaging version of ‘Farmer John’ and followed by a bit of the blues with a slightly pepped up take of Joe Hill Louis’ ‘Keep Your Arms Around Me’. Despite this album being heavily reliant on covers, ‘The Space Sessions’ never dips in terms of its overall appeal because the band has clearly done its homework by selecting a few obscurities that are no doubt hugely popular with The Satellites, but also difficult to find in relation to their original 45 status. For those looking to be transported back to a 50s era, then The Satellites ‘The Space Sessions’ is a journey worth taking.


Rockin' With Wanda Jackson

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Rockin’ With Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson

El Toro

It’s not all about the modern rockin’ scene at El Toro Records as, more often than not, the label issues a variety of albums with songs from the historical vaults, and then applies a fresh theme to such releases in relation to the pioneers of rockabilly for example. In focus here is Wanda Jackson, who doesn’t really need any introduction regarding her contributions to the genres of country and rockabilly, as well as her recent collaborative work with Jack White of The White Stripes. The double album  ’Rockin’ With Wanda Jackson’ is divided into two halves; side one covers the years 1956-58 and Wanda Jackson’s recordings with Capitol Records and, during this time, the newly opened Capitol Tower in Hollywood, before a subsequent move to Capitol Records, Nashville, centring on the periods 1960-61. With detailed liner notes supplied by Dave Penny covering Wanda Jackson’s musical whereabouts preceding the Capitol Records years, before getting to the nitty-gritty of these major recording years, and then concluding with recent activities in the recording arena, ‘Rockin’ With Wanda Jackson’ offers not only an in-depth look at the recorded works of Wanda Jackson, but great value considering the sixty-plus tracks listed, with additional bonus material from live performances at the Town Hall Party. Blessed with striking good looks and a voice to die for, Wanda Jackson was the equivalent to any of the male stars of the 50s and 60s periods; hence the Queen of Rockabilly title bestowed upon her. With songs aplenty, the proof is here for all to hear to back such a claim, but even if Wanda Jackson had recorded a mere handful of songs, such a small number would still have been enough to create the same impact that she made. As said, there’s much to absorb here because these delights will get under your skin and remain there for days, weeks, months later with ‘Money Honey’, ‘Rock Your Baby’, ‘Let’s Have A Party’, ‘Stupid Cupid’, ‘Hard-Headed Woman’, ‘Fujiyama Mama’ to start with. Just like the star at the centre of this piece, ‘Rockin’ With Wanda Jackson’ has so much to offer and is as good as any place to start regarding the music of Wanda Jackson.


The Basement Sessions EP

Released 30 April

 

The Basement Sessions

Monster Jaw

Cobra Kitten Records/Code 7

Latest addition to the recording stable of West Yorkshire’s Monster Jaw is ‘The Basement Sessions EP’. Having written, recorded and produced all four of the tracks making up this EP, the trio of Mik Davis, Neil Short and John Bradford secluded themselves for a two month period in a rented basement in order to complete this latest project. Calling on the experience of Justin Sullivan, from legendary post-punk outfit New Model Army, to help out with mixing and mastering, ‘The Basement Sessions EP’ sees Monster Jaw taking another step forward in their musical progression. Such progress can be seen from the unique stance of the entire recording process, which saw the band make use of a Tascam 688 chrome tape home recording studio in an attempt to capture something close to a live experience. With this plan dubbed “a very brave idea” from those working in the music industry, according to the accompanying press release for this latest EP, Monster Jaw remained unperturbed in their quest to record a series of unedited tracks set straight to tape with no additional overdubs. The overall atmosphere surrounding all four songs presented here is often dense and claustrophobic. Such an example of this can be identified from second track, ‘Love’, where oxygen appears short in supply due to the air having the consistency of treacle and causing heads to swim uncontrollably. Monster Jaw pull off such a feat by means of a prominent bass that is incredibly raw and drives the song, but also by giving the impression of looping the vocals with its repetitive lines regarding the subject of love to the point where one can almost visualise the room spinning, it’s that potent a brew! With ‘Feel It’ showing its affection for New Model Army as far as the guitars are concerned, and with its vocals retaining a very compressed feel, it would seem that Monster Jaw bonded as one with their chosen recording environment. The closing song, ‘Never Change’ cleverly borrows elements from a previous song, ‘Losing All My Friends’, but manages to transform it into a composition that has more in common with the current EP release, despite sounding slightly euphoric in its chorus. With so much to offer, hopefully the next release from Monster Jaw will extend to a full album because the affection for this band just got considerably bigger after experiencing ‘The Basement Sessions EP’.


By My Side

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By My Side

Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets

Rhythm Bomb

The Second coming of Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets has been eagerly anticipated on this side of the fence after creating a bit of a stir with their debut album approximately two years ago. With the new addition titled, ‘By My Side’, the thirteen compositions on offer – all original apart from the inclusion of a solitary cover – almost reads as a list of the trials and tribulations associated with one, or any number of relationship(s). With no word of this being a concept album, the songs, as mentioned earlier, certainly appear to favour such a direction. However, no matter the overall intentions of ‘By My Side’, there is definite soul-searching afoot whether trying to repair the gaping wound left by ‘Hole In My Heart’, expressed with a mixture of confusion and heartache, and then proceeding to neatly tie in the searching impression given by the band’s creative playing during the rather sublime ‘I’ll Find A Way’. Where this latest album differs in comparison to its debut is that Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets sound more confident in their stride, by throwing a few variations to their overall sound. While such variations are subtle, there is one noticeable curveball and that arrives with the bluesy lead track, ‘By My Side’, consisting of slide guitar and powerhouse vocals, and is just short of a harmonica to complete the full blues set. From such a terrific beginning, the quality of the song writing retains a consistency as demonstrated by the short and perky steps of ‘You Don’t Care’, with a lead guitar sounding full of improvisation, to the Sunday afternoon vibe surrounding ‘Pretty Baby’ despite the tension held by its lyrics. When there is disruption, however, it arrives in a compelling holler via ‘I’m Gonna Leave You’ and a series of vocal hiccups during ‘Jungle King’, that provides further evidence of a band beginning to feel at ease with themselves and allowing for a few ideas to flourish. Overall, ‘By My Side’ runs like a well-oiled machine as it’s tighter in its focus yet allows for a fresh layer of creativity to be applied to parts of its contents that leads to genuine progression in the Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets sound, and there is no better sense of achievement than that.


Good Taste In Bad Friends

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Good Taste In Bad Friends

Crystal & Runnin' Wild

Rhythm Bomb

With no prior knowledge of what to expect once ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’ was inserted into the CD player, one could be forgiven for thinking Aqua for the rockabilly market when weighing up the kitsch imagery and actual contents inside. Such a suggestion is not too far from the truth, however, as three out of the four band members – Crystal Dawn (vocals), Johnny Trash (drums) and Patrick Ouchene (guitar) – have participated in talent contests throughout Europe, with the Eurovision Song Contest being one of the most notable. Far closer to such a description, however, is the assortment of styles sewn into the majority of songs on offer here. This eclectic mix of tastes no doubt stems from the band’s already established involvement with various televised contests where influences from rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and a comedic singing routine have been chosen as part of their individual repertoires. When it comes to the contents of ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’, the album is predominantly rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, but with the band carefully and skilfully bleeding other influences into the songs. Take, for example, the roaring two-sided rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll of ‘What A Way To Die’, containing some of the wildest guitar playing you are likely to hear this side of the modern rockin’ scene. Sassy vocals from Crystal Dawn jumpstarts ‘Up Above My Head’, which brings an instant smile that grows close to Cheshire Cat sized proportions once the male vocals add their contributions to the narrative, with one comedic turn by way of Johnny Trash, and it really makes for great listening. The same impression can be applied to ‘Blood On The Kitchen Floor’ with its twang of the guitar providing that lonesome desert feel, in addition to the theatrical delivery of one vocal in particular that creates an awkward position of not knowing whether to laugh or cry considering the grave nature of the lyrics. These compelling traits however, are also the albums undoing because by the time ‘Bad Boy’ arrives it all becomes too much, with the exaggerated second vocal starting to grate somewhat, and the shift in styles becoming muddled (‘Oh By Jingo’). A shortened version of ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’ would have benefitted the competing interests of Crystal & Runnin’ Wild more greatly because, despite the talent on display here, various ideas become overworked and end up losing their initial appeal.


The Kabooms

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The Kabooms

The Kabooms

Rhythm Bomb

A vintage sound from a vintage era but one now firmly planted in 2015, The Kabooms see their debut album released on Rhythm Bomb Records. Clearly passionate about their choices of gear when committing their songs to the recording process, judging by the detailed inventory of equipment listed in the liner notes, The Kabooms is a band that really cares about its craft. From such detailed information, it’s no surprise that the band’s own compositions pack the same level of detail. Less obvious though, is the actual direction of the music generated by this Spanish combo. Despite peddling an authentic rockabilly sound, it’s one that is far less obvious in terms of which direction it is likely to take. For example, don’t expect a searing sound to come hurling from your speakers as perhaps expected given the band’s title. If anything, this album is more concerned with taking a controlled approach to its song writing, but with enough suggestion of a lurking wildness just below its surface. The song ‘Black Days’ is one such example where its tempo remains at a medium pace yet manages to generate a sense of unease via its raspy vocal and various subtle hints given by the instruments. Lead vocalist Matt Olivera sounds like a hoarser version of Darrel Higham during the wishful thinking of ‘Only Mine’, before changing track and adding vocal hiccups to the skulking rhythm of ‘Pretty Baby’. By shoehorning fourteen tracks into a time just under thirty minutes is some feat, but one that is all the more remarkable when considering the amount of detail compressed into such a short running time that should see a high level of repeat visits as ‘The Kabooms’ will leave you thinking long after its brief stay.


KILLSWITCH!

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KILLSWITCH!

The Rip 'Em Ups

Rhythm Bomb

Been a long time since we rock and rolled, but what a difference the passing of time can make. From going from one of our least favourite acts at the Rockabilly Rave of two years ago to a position of firm favourites here at FLW, it’s definitely a case of eat humble pie on our behalf. Quite literally dropping the bomb musically, the dish served up by The Rip ‘Em Ups with their debut album ‘KILLSWITCH!’ is absolutely incendiary.  From the opening blast of ‘I Wanna Love You’ and the stylishly named Javier De La Rosa setting the temperature to max with raw and passionate vocals and pinpoint guitar, in addition to the able hands of Jose ‘Watts’ Rodriguez (guitar), Edgar Villarreal (bass), Santos De Leon (drums) and Marco Palos (sax), it’s authentic rock ‘n’ roll with a serious attitude but one that adds various spices to its sounds à la ‘Spitfire’, which also contains a volatile narrative to match. Title song ‘Kill Switch’ has a rebellious streak, expressed by a straight instrumental with bonus points awarded for its dynamic sax and almost too hot to handle guitars. The difference with The Rip ‘Em Ups first long player and the already mentioned live experience is that the songs sown here sound far clearer in their overall delivery, as there is less of the fuzzy sameness which dogged their live set. The energy of a Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard in their heydays is definitely in existence when hearing the contents of ‘KILLSWITCH!’, but it is the decision to adopt other approaches to their music which benefits greatly. Such differences can be heard during ‘The Game’ where the vocal is allowed to take centre stage. Also, the rhythm is slowed somewhat during ‘Wild Savage Woman’, but there is nothing lost in terms of the wildness of The Rip ‘Em Ups as the song possesses a sultry side, only this is expressed in a more controlled manner, especially with the line, “Wild savage woman with blood red eyes” that sums up everything you need to know here. By tossing in joyous sounding numbers such as ‘Bailamos Rock N Roll’ during its end credits, The Rip ‘Em Ups leave nothing but a feeling of being completely bowled over. Taken by surprise most definitely, not in terms of the band’s technical abilities, but there is less of the ear-splitting intensity of the live act and more of a considered and diverse approach, which still retains a thrilling edge yet it is one that transforms The Rip ‘Em Ups in to a band genuinely worth spending time with. Absolute dynamite!


Rocket Girl

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Rocket Girl

Jai Malano

Rhythm Bomb

From one giant leap to the next, having formerly fronted Royal Rythmaires, Jai Malano has opted to take the solo route, albeit with additional expertise via record label mates Nico Duportal & his Rhythm Dudes. Setting her course for solo success is the debut album ‘Rocket Girl’; a predominantly rhythm and blues affair with flashes of rockabilly. Such a description applies to opening number ‘You Made Me Love You’, which sees Jai Malano limbering up for the main event rather than starting out at full throttle. The real action gets underway once the powering rhythm and blues and quick-tongued narration of ‘Learn About A Man’ makes its presence felt. Creating a bigger impression, however, is the soulful delivery of ‘Don’t', with equally impressive lead guitar that picks away at the senses and adding to the strong expression of independence that is at the centre of this song. The matchup with the aforementioned Nico Duportal & his Rhythm Dudes proves an inspired choice as the differing musical elements gel together effectively. For example, look no further than the rhythm and blues jive of the album’s title track that is bristling with personality, or the peeling back the years via a belting rendition, presumably captured in one take, of Leiber and Stoller’s ‘Hound Dog’. That said, Jai Malano steps it up another notch with the impassioned vocals and supportive sax of ‘So Good To My Baby’. The lights are noticeably turned down low during ‘Tell Me’, not as a means of expressing emotions connected with undying love but more as a means of highlighting the restless state of the individual concerned with this song. What began at a canter, quickly developed into a gallop, ending in nothing but an emphatic victory for Jai Malano’s ‘Rocket Girl’.



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