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If You Give Me One More Try

Terry O'Connel and his Pilots

El Toro

By pulling all of its components together over a number of years to finally arrive at the position where Terry O’Connel felt comfortable to address his line up as Terry O’Connel and his Pilots was the correct decision once the contents of ‘If You Give Me One More Try’ reveal themselves. The manner in which Terry O’Connel and his Pilots piece together twelve songs of authentic rockabilly that really takes the listener back to a bygone era is to be greatly admired. Whether from Terry O’Connel’s superbly delivered vocal that is full of character and sounding like one of the country singers during the 50s who jumped on board the rockabilly train once it gained momentum in order to keep up with the changing times, or his Pilots picking and strumming their instruments expertly to arrive at rockin’ delights as ‘Hot Rod Mama’ and ‘Put ‘Em In A Pot’, it would seem that this album has got everything. Having recorded ‘If You Give Me One More Try’ in Sweden, the band certainly has a way of tapping into the genuine features of rockabilly music of the 50s considering the distance historically, but also geographically, as songs such as ‘Say Yes’, ‘Cool It’, ‘Let’s Cut To The Chase’ and, already mentioned, ‘Hot Rod Mama’ are as good as anything that was issued from that rockin’ era. There’s no question of giving Terry O’Connel and his Pilots one more try because this album is as good as it gets when it comes to rockabilly in the 21st century.


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How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Florence + The Machine

Island

The storm clouds were circling leading up to Florence + The Machine’s third long player, ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’. In order to set the creative wheels in motion for this latest inclusion in the works of Florence + The Machine that seemed to involve a personal cleansing of the artistic soul, so to speak, has been suggested by the band’s leader, Florence Welch herself: “I was thinking about my own self-destructive side, and how you can make something only to tear it down, enjoy/destroy, create/devastate etc. When you’re in that whirlwind, you often end up breaking the thing you love the most”. Such words refer to, in particular, current and ubiquitous single, ‘Ship To Wreck’. It’s this very single which kick starts this latest chapter fully into life, and deserves all of the plaudits it’s currently receiving and blanket coverage in terms of TV networks and radio stations because it’s a glorious comeback considering the personal chaos that was threatening to engulf this artist. Producer Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Björk, Coldplay) also plays a role here by applying strict guidelines to the song writing (i.e. no more songs about water apart from the previously mentioned single) in order to derive a fresh way of thinking from Florence + The Machine. With contributions coming from John Hill, Kid Harpoon and Paul Hepworth, the combined efforts pay dividends as Florence + The Machine roll out a succession of well-crafted and thoroughly engaging songs. From earlier single release ‘What Kind Of Man’ with its inflections of blues held in its rhythm, to the sublime title track with its glorious conclusion of brass horns, to the thought-provoking duo of ‘Queen Of Peace’ and ‘Various Storms & Saints’, the troubled times Florence Welch underwent has seen her come out the other side a much stronger artist as ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ is a triumphant success.


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Hits From The Movies

Ricky Fabian

Rhythm Bomb

Setting this out as something resembling a concept album due to drawing its inspiration from movie soundtracks and centring its themes of love and loss around this very idea, Ricky Fabian is an artist willing to push his creativity to the outer edges of the rockin’ scene that he finds himself situated in. There is a sense of early 60s musical styling present, but with enough flashes of the raw and rugged edges of the previous decade to Fabian’s second outing, ‘Hits From The Movies’. In order to experience the latter example described, then head straight for the rockin’ energy of ‘Big Ole Bag’ that really gets under the skin via its at once trembling instrumentation that suddenly explodes during its chorus with Fabian’s vocal equally raw. This fever is contagious as it spreads to ‘Skinny Jeannie’, who just happens to be the centre of attention and someone’s affections, greatly illustrated by its slinking rhythm and bouts of heated passion. The impact of ‘Cindy Cindy’ is immediate with its rhythm sweeping the listener off its feet, but it also reveals a high level of detail in terms of the instrumentation; especially use of piano and for holding a real twang in the guitar that showcases one example of the deeper consideration of the song writing process here. With two duets included and featuring Ruby Ann (‘Hideaway Blues’) and Cherry Casino (‘Sunset Girl’), plus the addition of a wonderful ballad, ‘A Thing Of The Past’, ‘Hits From The Movies’ definitely has something for all those who enjoy the raucous elements of the latter half of the 50s, in addition to the musical developments that started to form after this particular period during the early 60s.


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Dani Nel – Lo & Barcelona Big Blues Band

Barcelona Big Blues Band

El Toro

When approaching the crossroads marked El Toro Records, the sounds emanating from the Barcelona Big Blues Band is one that is taking a sharp deviation to the left or right rather than pursing the road straight ahead with the label’s more traditional rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll sounds. By taking this different approach marks new times ahead for this record label, but more importantly recognising a promising and talented prospect when you see one. What the listener gets here is the full-on experience of a big band sound, but one that connects itself to the sounds of blues and rhythm and blues. With Ivan Kovacevic compiling the arrangements and providing direction, the Barcelona Big Blues Band enrols the skilful talents of saxophonist, Dani Nel – Lo who just happens to add an extra zest to each and every song listed here. Therefore, expect to hear a sophisticated set of compositions that are sometimes bristling with energy and enthusiasm – take your pick from ‘Marshall Plan’, ‘Sax Attack’ and the riotous sax contained within ‘Dey – Lo’ – or slightly less hurried numbers as ‘Pomez Stone’ and ‘Jump For George’. The frenzied shuffle of ‘Hot Rod’ with wild blasts of trumpet in the rear, tips its hat in acknowledgement to the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll without resorting to re-enacting its sound because this is all about the ‘big band’ after all. ‘Dani Nel – Lo & Barcelona Big Blues Band’ is a classy long player that successfully incorporates a rhythm and blues sound into a broader expanse of instrumentation that will leave you feeling greatly impressed by the end of its playing time.


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‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’

Ottar Big Hand Johansen

New Cut Music

To mark fifty years of hit records in the music business, Ottar ‘Big Hand’ Johansen celebrates this landmark occasion with a brand new album. To give this latest record the title that is befitting of its status, ‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’ sees one of Norway’s leading lights of country music reignite his passion for this particular genre. By teaming up with other artists including Claudia Scott, Too Far Gone, Billy T Band among others, the majority of songs making up this latest album are original compositions, which have received a working hand from the additional musicians involved in this project. There is definitely a nostalgic feel to the ten compositions making up ‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’, which naturally extends from Ottar Johansen’s vast experience of living and breathing the dream as a singer-songwriter. Therefore, it’s no surprise that you have song titles by the name of ‘Honky Tonks We’ve Known’, ‘Just Like In The 50s’ and ‘Follow My Dream’. However, there is room for forward thinking here as well with two songs that bookend this album; namely, recent single ‘Starting All Over Again’, steel strings gleaming as it maintains a relaxed pace and in line with the reflective stance of the song, and ‘Carry On’ with its campfire confessions going long into the night by way of several of its collaborators and Ottar Johansen leading the line. The creativeness continues once the engaging ‘Outlaws’ makes its entrance and proceeds to identify itself by means of a surly expression, dexterous guitar playing and detailed punctuations of harmonica. In fact, it’s this very song that suggests Ottar Johansen is far from thinking about hanging up his Stetson and packing away his collection of guitars in their respective cases because there’s a sense of mischief to this song, which transforms itself to a sprightly energy during the aforementioned, ‘Just Like In The 50s’ and the “We’ve still got it attitude” of ‘Honky Tonks We’ve Known’. A remarkable comeback, ‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’ celebrates the past yet is equally keen to focus on the present with a few ideas that suggest Ottar Johansen is ready for the next creative venture once the dust settles on this celebratory chapter.


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Piano Pumpin’ Sensation

Chris Girton

El Toro

Rather than producing the easier and more obvious route of a twelve track dedication to his idol, Jerry Lee Lewis, with the ‘Piano Pumpin’ Sensation’ of its title being the dead giveaway, Chris Girton, the man behind the piano keys, offers something else. That something else is twelve cover songs from an assortment of artists and songwriters who made their impact the first time around and have continued to leave a lasting impression on those still interested in such genres of music. Chris Girton just happens to be one of those artists thoroughly intrigued by rock ‘n’ roll’s rich history which, by adding his own spin on the songs selected, his ‘Piano Pumpin’ Sensation’ is now a part of that history. One point to address, however, is that the title of this record is a tad misleading because it’s not just the piano that is central to this album. Once the songs begin to peel away, the listener will hopefully identify the qualities held by Chris Girton’s vocal that are at once crooning during Darren Spears’ ‘Forever’s Much Too Long’, and the next keeping abreast with the rockin’ and expressive piano of ‘Break Up’. Skeet McDonald’s ‘What A Lonesome Life It’s Been’ is resurrected with a mild piano accompaniment and Girton’s vocal leading the narrative compellingly. By closing the set with an admirable version of ‘Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Until You Lose It)’, which falls somewhere between the two stools of Elvis and Eddie Cochran’s more reflective moments, the preferred option when it comes to ‘Piano Pumpin’ Sensation’ are the quieter, more reflective moments that really hold sway and suggest a strong option for a future long player.


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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.


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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’.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.



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