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New Spark Boogie / Free Ballin (Single)

The Ragtime Wranglers

Homebrew Records

With current single ‘Lover Please / Beau From Tupelo’ featuring Miss Mary Ann on vocals and The Ragtime Wranglers supplying the rhythm sections, special mention also goes to previous single ‘New Spark Boogie / Free Ballin’. Restricted to a mere 300 copies, it’s the turn of the three instrumentalists namely Joe (guitar/steel-guitar), Sietse (drums/percussion) and Huey (upright bass) to work their magic via two rockin’ tracks. Beginning with ‘New Spark Boogie’, The Ragtime Wranglers gradually work up a sweat with this rockin’ instrumental that gives an edge of unpredictability in terms of its direction, which excites the senses as does the rest of its rhythm that draws on rock ‘n’ roll and elements of country and western leading to a considerably cool and compelling track. The flipside, ‘Free Ballin’, follows in similar vein to its predecessor only the country and western influences are far more prominent and the rock ‘n’ roll is of a more dangerous nature with the guitars giving off an air of arrogance that lives up to its title and makes for a thoroughly compelling listen. It’s not often that instrumentals on their own cause much of a stir, but when it comes to The Ragtime Wranglers and this double-sided single, they wake up the neighbourhood with good reason because this is rock ‘n’ roll worth getting excited about.


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Lover Please / Beau From Tupelo (Single)

Miss Mary Ann & the Ragtime Wranglers

Homebrew Records

Arriving fresh in the mail only recently comes the new single from Netherlands’ rockabilly outfit Miss Mary Ann & the Ragtime Wranglers. With this brand new single being a strictly limited edition (500 copies) pressed on 45” vinyl with a pastel green finish and launched in conjunction with the band’s appearance at this year’s Rockabilly Rave, the double header featuring ‘Lover Please’ and ‘Beau From Tupelo’ are timely reminders of the capabilities of this rockin’ four piece. With ‘Beau From Tupelo’ selected as the first choice for consideration here, and purely out of curiosity for its given title, the decision pays off immediately. From its bright, snappy opening that remains intact throughout where the upright bass makes its presence known with a solid beat and the lead guitar weaves a spell through the eye of a needle such is its precision, it’s a song of wonder from start to finish that can best be described as a “stroller” with a beating heart such is its admiration for the ‘beau’ in question. The flipside (or main offering) ‘Lover Please’ is an altogether different beast and shows the inventiveness of this band where standing still is not an option. Such is the experience of Miss Mary Ann & the Ragtime Wranglers that merely churning out another similar sounding number is all too easy that’s why ‘Lover Please’ inspires the mind with it’s clever infusion of Cajun spices crossed with rock ‘n’ roll yet never straying from a midtempo rhythm that cleverly enhances the expressed sigh of its lyrical content of unrequited love. Truly a top-class double effort that is deserved of its ‘special’ release status and limited run.


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You Shake Me

Various Artists

Atomicat

Rejuvenating a former series and continuing under the Pan American label but via Atomicat Records is latest compilation ‘You Shake Me Up’. Featuring various artists from the world of 50s rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, ‘You Shake Me Up’ mixes lesser-known artists with those who made a name for themselves during this brief yet golden period of music. Containing twenty-six tracks and offering serious value for money, ‘You Shake Me Up’ certainly delivers when it comes to the most important ingredient, and that being the music. Beginning in scintillating fashion with the triplet that is Bobby Smith and ‘She’s Gone From Me’; Earl Reed and His Rhythm Rockers ‘Mama’ and Floyd Lee with ‘Go Boy’, ‘You Shake Me Up’ lives up to its title from the off. In fact, the entire album is littered with such delights whether raw and loose like Blacky Vale’s version of ‘If I Had Me A Woman’ or equally Thunder Rocks with ‘Oh, My Linda’, to a different interpretation of well-known classic ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ delivered by Junior Shank and The Jesters. With this album being filled with many highlights, one of these is reserved nearing its end with rip-roaring number ‘Slow Down Sandy’ given the required spark by Eddie Quinteros and accompanying guitar. The decision to revive the Pan American series was a worthwhile one considering the hot rockin’ cuts selected for ‘You Shake Me Up’ because it won’t let you down.


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Movin

Shaun Young and The 3 Ringers

Rhythm Bomb

Arriving only recently at FLW is the already available ‘Movin’ by Shaun Young and The 3 Ringers and The Texas Blue Dots. Issued on both CD and 12” vinyl, ‘Movin’ is a collection of songs split between the two guises of The 3 Ringers and The Texas Blue Dots, but with most songs going to The 3 Ringers. With the album being recorded and produced by Shaun Young at Jet-Tone Studios, Austin, Texas – “The Speed of Sound”, the quality really shines throughout this release. From rockabilly influenced numbers ‘Things Will Never Be The Same’, to an amalgamation of said genre with a strong hint of blues powering ‘When You Do That’, and then rounding off with the rock ‘n’ roll ‘Knockout’, Shaun Young with his cohorts is never one to sit still for a moment. Such a notion can be gleaned from the modern touches applied to this album, despite the album retaining a definite authentic feel overall, because ‘Movin’ never gives the impression of holding a desire to go back to the 50s as it’s a record that sounds perfectly at home in the present. With song titles and lyrics suggesting much heartache and longing for better times (‘Things Will Never Be The Same’, ‘Drink Till I Can’t Feel The Pain’, ‘My Heartaches Been Confirmed’, etc) Shaun Young (and bands) has/have a real way of convincing its audience via such tearjerkers as ‘I Plead The 5th’, to the more hopeful ‘More Than Any Tongue Can Tell’ with its mashup intro of Tom Petty meets Buddy Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’. The contents of ‘Movin’ are a delight to behold and provide enough evidence that rockabilly is alive and well in Austin, Texas.


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Gonna Make It Alone – Brexit Rockers

Various Artists

Atomicat

The music speaks for itself on this latest compilation from Atomicat, despite its relevance in name only to the current political debate surrounding the UK and rest of Europe. Charging in on a riotous romp of twenty-four tracks comes ‘Goanna Make It Alone – Brexit Rockers’, which is a record for the times; that being the topsy-turvy political climate of the UK and whether to officially leave the EU or remain a full member. As complex and quite frankly baffling the whole process to date has been, not to mention where the past two years has gone, one record label’s decision to express its opinion on this whole, and quite frankly, baffling affair is not only their right but the manner in which ‘Goanna Make It Alone – Brexit Rockers’ conducts itself by throwing a party rather than being a political vehicle. There is not an ounce of political motivation between the rock ‘n’ roll sides of this compilation, more a loose association of track names and lyrics to the current fiasco between the UK / Brussels and Co. So, if you can imagine for one moment Brexit is set out in five stages where the starting post begins via the snappy rhythm of Billy Fury’s ‘Gonna Type A Letter’, complete with the nostalgic sound of the now obsolete typewriter (UK to EU), to the hillbilly yarn of ‘Don’t Push Me Too Far’ from the always reliable Skeets McDonald (EU in reply to the UK), to country-weepy  ‘We’re Talking It Over’ By Faron Young (50 – 50 EU / UK debate), and then final breakdown where we’re informed by  ‘Lies Lies Lies’ (Norman Bullock) before eventually landing rock bottom and ‘Singing The Blues’ with Tommy Steele for company. In fact, there’s so much scope here to devise your own five phases of the Brexit process, which really can take a stinging turn if you like your rock ‘n’ roll on the wild side à la Jackie Lee Cochran (‘Pity Me’), Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (‘There’s Something Wrong With You’) and (it’s in there if you listen closely) George Jones’ superb ‘No Money In This Deal’. It’s a cleverly thought out compilation where song lyrics can be associated with the situation that is Brexit without mentioning politics or having any direct correlations. Therefore, ‘Gonna Make It Alone – Brexit Rockers’ is a very special album for a period that will go down in history forever once this whole affair draws itself to a conclusion. Thankfully, it’s the rock ‘n’ roll music that speaks volumes here and will remain the only winner whatever the eventual outcome at the end of this month. But, to borrow Bill Swing’s song title, it sure is ‘Messed Up’ depending on which side of the political fence one sits of course.


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Catfight – Playmates

Various Artists

Atomicat

Coming out fighting (playfully of course!) is the compilation of assorted artists making up ‘Playmates’. By claiming “25 Sure Shot Dancefloor Champions” across its cover, the album ‘Playmates’ has a lot to live up to. Once the likes of Derrell Felts, Thomas Wayne and Al Urban get underway, then the feeling is one of being in good company and the earlier assertion starts to make sense. With the inclusion of other “Sure Shot” winners such as Gene Summers (‘Twixteen’), Jimmy Pritchett (‘That’s The Way I Feel’) and in recent times revived on vinyl of Jimmy Dell ‘I’ve Got A Dollar’. There’s the inclusion of something different via some rhythm and blues and The Five Keys’ ‘Hucklebuck With Jimmy’, and later female rocker Evelyn Harlene ‘I Wanta Be Free’. All in all, another fine compilation from the Catfight series that certainly lives up to its billing of “25 Sure Shot Dancefloor Champions”.


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Catfight – Miss Shake It

Various Artists

Atomicat

Coming out shaking and boppin’ is the latest instalment in the ‘Catfight’ series with ‘Miss Shake It’. By compiling such a long line of artists from the 50s era, value for money is never a question when it comes to this series as once more it delivers on all levels. Evidence of this value for money and high quality begins in a passionate manner via the excellent delivery of Gene Summers and ‘Nervous’. From then on the shirt collars loosen and the mood relaxes somewhat with Mikey Gilley and ‘Come On Baby’; Gene Terry’s ‘Cindy Lou’ complete with influential saxophone, and then followed by three untameable rockers that raise the roof by way of Sonny Hall, Ba Ba Thomas and, we’ll take his word for it considering this genius delivery, Bobby Milano and ‘Life Begins At Four O’Clock’. The inclusion of the raw and primitive ‘Long Gone Baby’ (Mike Shaw) offers a genuine moment of reflection but this mood doesn’t last for long with Terry Daly supplying a paint stripping ‘You Don’t Bug Me’ and Ray Willis powered rocker ‘Whatta Ya Do’ clearly shakin’ things up. With another version of ‘Jungle Rock’ supplied by Jim Bobo added to this compilation, there’s not a foot placed wrong here as ‘Catfight – Miss Shake It’ delivers a collection to remember.


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Hit The Tracks

Kieron McDonald Combo and Hank's Jalopy Demons

Rhythm Bomb

First impressions of latest album by Australian rockabilly artist, Kieron McDonald, and fellow Australians, Hank’s Jalopy Demons, suggest a joint meeting of the musical minds. What materialises, however, is a split effort that sees the formerly mentioned rockin’ frontman, Kieron McDonald, take centre stage first, and with Hank’s Jalopy Demons seeing out the remainder of the album. With the additional ‘Combo’ completing Kieron McDonald’s line-up consisting of three quarters of Hank’s Jalopy Demons – namely Dave Cantrell (guitar), Til Vex (upright bass) and Andrew Lindsay (drums) – this rockin’ unit really knows how to churn out a rockabilly sound that is authentic and, more keenly, one that is original in terms of its song writing. First up is the energetic and jittery sounding rockabilly of ‘Oh Judy’ that really sees the male counterpart of this particular relationship all of a fluster due to the ever-changing moods of the lead at the centre of this opening song. Moving on from such a compelling start, the rest of Kieron McDonald’s material continues to enthral both in sound and lyrics where one moment he’s lamenting about the everyday where both car and job threaten to ruin his day (‘That’s Life’), to feeling giddy about the “gal” in his life (‘A Wiggle In Her Walk’), which is expertly defined by the rhythm of the song as well. There’s a touch of humour to the hillbilly and western swing influence of ‘Hard Head’ that is memorable for suggesting this song might be the closest to an autobiographical offering from Kieron McDonald, in addition to being reminiscent of the UK’s very own The Doel Brothers. The second half of the album allows for lead vocalist, Hank Ferguson of the Jalopy Demons to show off his song writing skills because, like Kieron McDonald, he’s equally adept at crafting a fine song or two. The first signs of this can be heard via the wild and rockin’ ‘Jalopy Driver’s Lament’, which showcases the sense of restlessness, in addition to fun-seeking this particular band seem to find themselves at loggerheads with. Other examples of this tangle of the senses can be found during the frank ‘Stop Flappin’ Them Chops’, which is short and sharp in its rhythm and therefore detailing nicely the sense of irritation at the heart of this song. There are certain regrets echoed during the rather excellent and more delicate sounding, ‘Knock Down The Door’. Despite any downturns in life expressed here, Hank’s Jalopy Demons never forget to inject a little humour in to their song writing, with ‘Wig-Flip Bop’ being the standout candidate. Something of a novel idea, ‘Hit The Tracks’ surprisingly works considering the context of the album with two different artists at work. The key to this success is likely down to both artists deep understanding of the genre(s) they’re operating with, but also the passion they share for rockabilly music, as well as a knack for writing and recording fresh ideas and material that makes for a seamless body of work, because that’s exactly what any listener will experience when listening to ‘Hit The Tracks’.


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By Request

Vince & the Sun Boppers

Rhythm Bomb

Writing and recording at a prolific rate, Vince and the Sun Boppers enter the fray for a third time with ‘By Request’. With the title of this latest album being likely recognition to their growing fan base, not to mention the band’s seemingly inherent thirst for song writing, ‘By request’ sees Vince and Co. return with fourteen brand spanking new songs. The immediate response via the third long player arrives with a couple of boppers and strollers – ‘Bye To The City’ and ‘One Day’ – both reflecting on what might have been if life had only presented a different hand to the Sun Boppers frontman. It makes for an impressive introduction that only gets better via a succession of solid songs with the desperate pleas and rockabilly ‘Don’t Leave Me (Just Love Me)’; ‘Ransom Of Love’ with its stick of rock centre inscribed with Buddy Holly, to a trio of superb ballads that contain influences of country, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll with, in particular, ‘Garden Of Roses’ suggesting that Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis played their parts when making this song, ‘Why’ and ‘Your Hand In Mine’; the latter track being a standout with its stripped-back presentation and aching country lilt that is pure Vince and the Sun Boppers. A remarkable album that doesn’t simply furrow a straight rockabilly route, despite said genre being its prime inspiration, because ‘By Request’ considers a few other ideas, notably country, and dips its musical toe with a successful outcome. The wait, no doubt, won’t be long until Vince and the Sun Boppers next musical venture, judging by the apparent ease to write and record this latest album and one that will satisfy the band’s increasing support.


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Hit Me Up

Slapback Johnny

Rhythm Bomb

Described as a band that “works hard and rocks even harder”, the Dutch trio that is Slapback Johnny certainly live up to such a description with their debut album. Made up of thirteen self-penned tracks, the band’s debut, ‘Hit Me Up’, is blessed with a high level of energy that fuels songs to the max where rock ‘n’ roll greatly influences the majority of its contents. With many songs possessing a hard-hitting edge where fireworks ignite via opener ‘Bombshell’ and then continue in similar fashion with numerous tough and raucous rhythms from such numbers as ‘One Last Shot’, ‘Hit Me Up’ (title track), ‘Ball ‘n’ Chain’ to ‘You’ve Been Told’, it would seem that any suggestion of the band dropping down a gear or two is simply implausible. Unfortunately this is where the album ‘Hit Me Up’ falls down on occasions due to a sense of repetition creeping in where a slower tempo of a ballad or two would have sufficed and therefore provided a more balanced feel to the overall contents of the band’s first album. However, that is not to say that Slapback Johnny’s ‘Hit Me Up’ is devoid of broader influences because the trio certainly deliver on that front where the likes of Bill Haley and his Comets, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Stray Cats, to name a few, can all be heard throughout this debut album. There’s no doubting the sincerity and commitment to the cause of (modern) rock ‘n’ roll with Johnny Slapback’s first full effort and something that is to be admired with its approach of original song writing and the energetic values underpinning these songs.


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Catfight – Rattle Shakin’ Mama

Various Artists

Atomicat

More rockabilly, rhythm and blues and doo-wop goodness via the series Catfight and, in this instance, ‘Rattle Shakin’ Mama’. Packed to the rafters with a total of twenty-five tracks, the CD offers great value for anyone’s hard-earned cash due to the variety of artists on offer ranging from excellent and lowdown rockin’ sounds of Don Willis with ‘Boppin’ High School Baby’; lively rockabilly of Big Al Downing’s ‘Down On The Farm’, to the wild cat that was Ronnie Self and compelling ‘Ain’t I’m A Dog’. Not forgetting to mention and backed by equally compelling numbers, especially in the vocals department, via Conway Twitty (‘I Need Your Lovin’) and Bobby Marchan who made it all sound so effortless (‘Chickee Wah-Wah’). With The Del Vikings and The Five Keys providing a little doo-wop and admirably so, to The Cochran Brothers springing up and offering ‘A Fool’s Paradise’, these are all but a small selection of the sheer delights on offer throughout this excellent compilation, ‘Rattle Shakin’ Mama’.


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The Midnight Creature

Crystal & Runnin' Wild

Rhythm Bomb

Crystal & Runnin’ Wild is far from being your typical rockin’ unit as there’s always been a sense of the ‘other’ about them, which entails various musical influences, albeit subtle, and theatrical touches that earmark them as somewhat different to their contemporaries. Add to the mix a strong sense of humour, not to mention undoubted skilful musicianship, and you’ve really got the full pot when it comes to Crystal & Runnin’ Wild. With the decision made to record the album in MONO, and the band focusing on darker themes without losing the aforementioned sense of humour where B-movie references and influences from surf and garage rock to wild rockabilly play their part, this latest chapter in Crystal & Runnin’ Wild makes for an enthralling affair. Combing original material with a selection of cover songs makes no difference here as the chosen covers often sound like fresh compositions; such is the deft touches of creativity at the heart of this band. For highlights look no further than the wonderfully pared back ‘Set Me Free’; heavy rockabilly of ‘Wish You Misery’ and then more traditional rockin’ ‘The Midnight Creature’, to the pacey Western flavoured ‘Take Me Home’ and complete opposite of dark and soulful ‘Nobody Loves You’ to understand that Crystal & Runnin’ Wild has the ability to offer something quite different and really rather special via latest album ‘The Midnight Creature’.



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