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Less One Knows

Benjamin Finger

Dead Definition

Appropriate really considering the title of Norwegian Benjamin Finger’s album ‘Less One Knows’ that there is no press information accompanying this latest release and, therefore, leaving any theories and conclusions solely at the feet of the individual. An album wide open to interpretation therefore, and leap into a blackened wilderness, but most certainly not into the unknown considering Famous Last Words’ previous commentary on the works of Benjamin Finger. That said, ‘Less One Knows’ removes those comfy slippers Mr Finger was becoming accustomed with and immediately throws a U-turn where sounds were previously ethereal, wispy and largely communicating in electronic jargon, and replaced by such examples as the opening cacophony of noise illustrated by ‘Open Phase’. It is the start of this journey and it is one trying to remove itself from the confined space it finds itself in. It is the sound of a traffic jam in rush hour largely demonstrated by use of guitar. It is this very instrument that shapes and steers this new record and sounds somewhat alien when considering previous albums of Benjamin Finger. It is an angry record in several places given the hardened, charcoaled textures of ‘Screaming Mind’ where one can visualise sheets of rain beating down, to one that has been listening to and taking notes of post-rock and shoegaze. More specifically, the ghost of Joy Division is a reference point given the heavy melancholy of captivating ‘Bothered Earwaves’. Something has certainly shifted in the sea of sounds when it comes to Benjamin Finger because ‘Less One Knows’, in all of its details, is a record attempting to make sense of an episode that provides no comfort, only sadness, where memories surface and fade from thought and illustrated compellingly from start to finish via mainly electric guitar and, more or less, a first on this very manor, strong(ER) use of vocals where direct commentary between artist and audience is almost given, but then that would be a disservice to the title and overall context of this magnificent body of work. Sometimes in life, ‘Less One Knows’ really does provide more consolation.


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Up and Down

Ramblin Bandits

Rhythm Bomb

With the occasional exception, it has been something of an age since Rhythm Bomb issued an album from a band with most of their wares showing life of new and original material. Good to see therefore, the record label back on familiar territory promoting an album by the lively and energetic combo The Ramblin Bandits. With ‘Up and Down’ being album number two after debut ‘On A Hill’ from the Danish rockabilly trio, the latest release reveals similar traits to its well-received debut. With beards completely shorn or noticeably trimmer, The Ramblin Bandits continue their combined use of influences of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and a hefty dose of blues where their sound can be compellingly gruff and raw as depicted by the album’s title track. Such is the brooding, menacing ferocity of this opening song that had it been released during the outset of 50’s rockin’ music, it would have instantly received a banning order. From such tension and where this album differs, albeit slightly to its predecessor, is the variation in tempo of one or two tracks. This makes for a welcome feature as it’s not all foot-to-the-floor belters with an inspiring and intriguing turn, partially explained by its delivery of near-threadbare instrumentation of ‘Four Ounce Bobby’ where the holler from this side of the fence is, “More of this please!” Delta blues plays its part with noticeable use of slide guitar during ‘Crazy Little Mama’ and ‘Squeeze You In’, the latter of which sounds more contemporary purely for reminding of Seasick Steve. However, rioting is part of their game and something The Ramblin Bandits do best with team attitude and effort in abundance during ‘We Are The Ramblin Bandits’ and, next in line, ‘Rough Enough’ which, again, contains much tension judging by its revengeful sounding chorus that barks out its feelings. As far as second albums go, The Ramblin Bandits show no signs of fatigue during ‘Up and Down’ because it’s simply engaging from start to finish, and contains shoots of creativity with clear indicators of future directions if the band choose to pursue such avenues.


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Boss Black Rockers Vol.4 – Slow Down

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A series that is raising a holler due to not only its excellent content but also for providing a piece of history that is not highlighted enough regarding the many “ACE” black musicians who laid the foundations for what became rock ‘n’ roll. With volume four in this recent series from Koko Mojo, the twenty-eight tracks on offer provide enough glimpses of the talent of the time but also for the energy and inventiveness of the rockin’ tracks. By introducing a few names that will be familiar to some i.e. Jimmy McCracklin, Lloyd Price, Otis Redding with, on this occasion The Pinetoppers and others such as Joe Tex, Gene and Eunice and Larry Williams, the inclusion of a few lesser known artists adds extra spice to the series and therefore a worthy addition to anyone’s record collection. From the very definition of “wild” rock ‘n’ roll that is the severe guitar straining number ‘Wail Baby Wail’ from Tommy Louis With Marshall And The Versatiles, to more rhythmically tight ‘Such A Mess’ but nonetheless rock ‘n’ roll given the power expressed by Lloyd Price’s voice, volume four of this series has no intention of slowing down. With so much expressed via the rhythm and blues/doo wop crossover of the vocals and rock ‘n’ roll of its guitar of The El Venos’ ‘Geraldine’ providing such a deeply textured song yet sounding free of clutter, to other tracks where the rock ‘n’ roll is absolutely flying such as the fantastic ‘Papa Lou And Gran’ supplied by Little Victor. Only four albums in and the series ‘Boss Black Rockers’ has already offered more than enough great rockin’ tracks and, even greater news, there’s still more to come!


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Boss Black Rockers Vol.3 – Rockin’ Shoes

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Keeping the rock ‘n’ roll flame well and truly alive is volume three of the current series on Koko Mojo ‘Boss Black Rockers – Rockin’ Shoes’. With the emphasis of the album title on the appropriate footwear when it comes to these latest twenty-eight slices of rock ‘n’ roll in this hot new series, “rockin’ shoes” are definitely required from the off. Such attire soon becomes apparent once the opening trio of songs from Big Al Downing and ‘Yes I’m Loving You’ opens this particular account with its straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll, to the next in line and scorching heat emanating from track ‘Itchy Twitchy Feeling’ by The Swallows, to equally thrilling Roy Gaines and ‘Skippy Is A Sissy (If This Ain’t Love). Phew! Take a breather, no chance! This is rock ‘n’ roll at its finest where the beat never lets up as evidenced by frantic rhythm of the compilation’s title track via Tony Allan. Following on from that is the powerhouse saxophone steering ‘Ain’t You Glad Nature Did It’ (Joe Perkins & The Rookies), to similar effect via the vocal of Bobby Davis and really rather prickly rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Damper Down’. Take a breather, no chance! Time to sit back and relax is not an option as ‘Boss Black Rockers Vol.3 – Rockin’ Shoes’ is simply irresistible whether slippin’ ‘n’ slidin’ to charismatic vocals and lively rhythm of Larry Birdsong and ‘Somebody Somewhere’, or strollin’ via The Titans’ ‘Don’t You Just Know It’, or simply cutting loose to Etta James and ‘What I Say’, there’s no finer compilation to put the listener in the mood for some serious “Rockin’ Shoes” with volume three of ‘Boss Black Rockers’.


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Hillbilly Boogie And Jive Vol.5

Various Artists

Atomicat

Following on straight after volume four in the series ‘Hillbilly Boogie And Jive’ via Atomicat is ‘So Tired Of Crying’. Whereas the previous volume focused on more lively tempos in terms of its contents, album number five follows a similar route yet the mood is heavier in the sense that heartbreak is never far away. Take a listen from the lean and precise delivery of country ditty ‘I’m A Big Boy Now’ where Justin Tubb reveals a lesson learnt as far as relationships go. As far as the theme of this album goes, the heartbreak is not solely a preserve of relationships as the superb duet between Red Foley & Ernest Tubb with ‘Don’t Be Ashamed Of Your Age’ needs no explaining, ditto the hardships of certain occupations such as ‘Pipeliner Blues’ albeit skilfully tied to relationship woes and compellingly played out via excellent fiddle and Moon Mullican’s piano playing. There is the female perspective on love with Charlotte Harden ‘Loving You Baby’ and near-boppin’ rhythm as it edges out of the 50s and into early 60s and links to both hillbilly and rockabilly. The pared back ‘Crazy ‘Bout You’ returns to the straight country line with its steel guitar playing a major role along with Hank Crow’s honest vocals making for a compelling song. With the likes of Bill Haley & His Comets popping up for the finale with ‘Rocket ‘88’’ and Anita Carter with quite unique take on ‘Freight Train Blues’ where breathing doesn’t appear to be an option, especially if you want to keep up with this truly excellent compilation known as ‘Hillbilly Boogie And Jive Vol.5 – So Tired Of Crying’.


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Hillbilly Boogie And Jive Vol.4

Various Artists

Atomicat

The series that keeps on giving is ‘Hillbilly Boogie And Jive’ with another mouth-watering twenty-eight tracks to consume from a variety of country and hillbilly artists from a bygone age. With this compilation being the fourth in the series, ‘Hillbilly Boogie And Jive – Boogie Woogie Cowboy’ is something of a lively collection of western swing, hillbilly, and country tracks by many of its pioneers. So expect to hear the likes of established names such as Chet Atkins and His Colorado Mountain Boys and detailed guitar instrumental ‘Canned Heat’, to Hank Thompson’s sparky tempo of ‘Deep Elm’ where the brass section really dominates along with breaking lead guitar. From the rockin’ foundations of these numbers, the early foundations of rockabilly can be heard in Moon Mullican’s ‘What’s The Matter With The Mill’ and the lesser-known moniker (to these ears) of Eddie Cletro & His Round Up Boys ‘Flying Saucer Boogie’ also dropping hints of what was to come and no doubt a source of inspiration for Billy Lee Riley considering the occasional bouts of wild hollering and talk of the town fascination with outer space. The inclusion of the less obvious artists is just one of the reasons why this compilation series is worth investigating and investing your time because along with the “bigger” names the listener will become accustomed with “Texas” Bill Strength and ‘Paper Boy Boogie’, to longer title and less heard Jay-Bob Howdy with Hoyle Nix & His West Texas Cowboys’ ‘Real Rockin’ Daddy’. Add to that a “How to do it” cover version of ‘Little Susie’ supplied by Joe Melson, and the likes of Tex Williams, Merle Travis, Tibby Edwards and Jim Reeves also making appearances, then ‘Boogie Woogie Cowboy’ not only provides a quality package of music, but one that serves as a tangible link to the rockin’ sounds of what was to become rockabilly.


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Hank Williams Songbook Vol. 2

Various Artists

Atomicat

Continuing the songs of Hank Williams, in addition to songs associated with the hillbilly country legend and performed by various artists, is ‘The Hank Williams Songbook Vol. 2’. What the listener can expect, therefore, is a tribute album of sorts but one that provides evidence of songs which inspired Hank Williams as well as the numerous artists covering these songs providing their own interpretations. Beginning in style with ‘Move It On Over’, and always good for anyone’s money, Maddox Brothers & Rose provide their usual blend of charisma and precision. From there other big names duly arrive with George Jones popping by for two visits with the album’s title track and later bestowed the honour of another fine William’s classic with his version of ‘Settin’ The Woods On Fire’. Elsewhere, Porter Waggoner provides ‘Tennessee Border, and Lattie Moore really drives home the melancholy of Williams’ in both sound and song title despite being a third-party composition via ‘Sundown And Sorrow’. On a similar theme, Bill Darnell chips in with ‘Alone And Forsaken’; a Hank Williams’ original and one that leads to further investigation of the cover artist given the compelling rendition of this track. Interestingly, one or two names make appearances that are less familiar such as Gene O’ Quin (‘Blues Come Around’), Fred Thornton And The Sons Of The Golden West (‘There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight’) and Morris Mills with ‘Jumbalia Answer’.  With Ferlin Husky (‘Minni-Ha-Cha’) also included, and always a bonus on this side of the country/hillbilly fence, and Hank The Drifter providing perhaps the biggest tribute here with ‘Hank Your Gone’, ‘The Hank Williams Songbook Vol. 2’ is a must-have album for all Hank Williams’ aficionados.


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Let’s Throw A Pajama Party Vol.2

Various Artists

Atomicat

Fast on the heels of the first volume in this latest series on the Atomicat label is ‘Pajama Party Vol.2’. With the first compilation being well received and shifting faster than hotcakes, the second album looks set to repeat the same success, if not surpass it. Containing enough songs to rival the average family shopping list, ‘Pajama Party Vol.2’ runs from track 01 to 30 and is filled with a variety of artists from the 50s and early 60s.Therefore, expect to have your ears filled with many delights such as classic instrumental by The Ventures ‘Walk, Don’t Run’, to plenty of teenage-light rock ‘n’ roll with examples ranging from Chico Holiday and the song ‘Cuckoo Girl’, to Johnny Tillotson and ‘Cutie Pie’. As with the first volume in this series, the current album mixes the genres and comes up trumps with traditional rhythm and blues and doo wop via The Crows’ ‘Gee’, The Cleftones’ ‘Can’t We Be Sweethearts’ and double offering from The Heartbeats with ‘I Want To Know’ and tearjerker ‘A Thousand Miles Away’. Ral Donner pops up with ‘Girl Of My Best Friend’ and provides not only fantastic vocals but the closest to the King himself Elvis Presley. Fanning the flame for female rockers is Donna Dameron, who returns the call to the Big Bopper himself via ‘Bopper 486609’. It’s a gripping track and provides enough flair and imagination to fill this entire compilation. Great value and, more importantly, great music are what to expect when dropping this soundtrack for the next party.


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Boss Black Rockers Vol.2 – Bip Bop Bip

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Already shaping up to be an exciting new series is ‘Boss Black Rockers Vol.2 – Bip Bop Bip’. With this being only the second album to date, and ten scheduled overall, it’s going to be a difficult job to contain the excitement judging by the quality of songs offered, but also interesting to see how this quality varies over the duration of these album releases. With the “Mojo Man” aka Little Victor at the helm once more compiling the tracks for ‘Boss Black Rockers Vol.2 – Bip Bop Bip’, there’s much to consume with twenty-eight songs selected. Kicking off with The Supremes (No, not that one!) ‘Don’t Leave Me Here To Cry’ that’s upbeat despite its title and followed by the easy to remember moniker and rock ‘n’ roll stomp of Big Bob and ‘Your Line Was Busy’. In fact, the rock ‘n’ roll never lets go as the quality maintains a gold standard from Bobby Marchan’s ‘Rockin’ Behind The Iron Curtain’, Lowell Fulson’s Little Richard inspired ‘Rock This Morning’, to The Cadets fabulous vocals and fusing of rhythm and blues with rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Do You Wanna Rock’. There are familiar tracks such as the reply to Chuck Berry’s ‘Maybellene’ with John Greer’s ‘Come Back Maybellene’, in addition to the original recording of ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ from Barrett Strong. Bringing to the attention via ‘Boss Black Rockers Vol.2 – Bip Bop Bip’ of artists who were performing rock ‘n’ roll songs either before or at the same time as their white counterparts is significant for providing an accurate document on the real history of the period, but also for bringing to light so many exciting and rockin’ tracks that deserve to be heard. This series is going to be very special indeed.


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Hillbilly Boogie And Jive Vol.3

Various Artists

Atomicat

Keeping the momentum going is the third volume in the series offering various strands of country music by way of ‘Hillbilly Boogie And Jive Vol.3’. Traditional country in its various forms can be heard throughout with many established artists such as Red Foley, Chet Atkins, Ella Mae Morse to Bill Haley & His Comets mingling with names less familiar and that’s just one of the great intrigues with this series. Therefore, the track lists selected so far have been inspiring, and Volume. 3 shows no signs of altering this trend. First-hand evidence of this can be experienced during the opening western swing instrumental from Spade Cooley & His Orchestra with ‘Oklahoma Stomp’. Despite this collection serving early country music, there are some artists operating within the genre of rockabilly. Therefore, there’s no better place to begin with than Earl Epps excellent ‘Be-Bop Blues’. The previously mentioned Bill Haley & His Comets also reveal an early foray on rockabilly with their ‘Green Tree Boogie’, and ditto Bill Phillips’ ‘There’s A Change In Me’ with its title alone suggesting the changing times. Returning to the main theme of this album, Dave Isbell’s ‘Satisfied Or Sorry’ is beautiful as it is heart-breaking, whereas Ramblin’ Jimmie Dolan offers a compelling chattering vocal style complete with rollicking piano and steel guitar during the hillbilly boogie that is ‘Juke Box Boogie’. Such tracks representing ‘Hillbilly Boogie And Jive Vol.3’ reveal a wild side that was in evidence before rock ‘n’ roll had chance to fully claim this title. This comes as no surprise when songs were given titles such as ‘My Mail Order Mama’ during this era of country music, showing that there really was a lot more going on than simply great music coming out of those distant country hills.

 


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It’s A Long Rocky Road – A Tribute To Johnny Horton

Various Artists

Atomicat

Offering a different slant on the “tribute” album is latest release from Atomicat Records and ‘It’s A Long Rocky Road – A Tribute To Johnny Horton’. Not only a compelling artist in his own right, and showing the reasons why with the first ten tracks of this compilation album performed by Johnny Horton himself, the rest of this album is given over to numerous artists paying their respects to Johnny Horton with their interpretations of songs performed by the artist or connections built through song writing credits or songs performed by Johnny Horton but written by other music performers. It all makes for an interesting listen and one spiced up further nearing its end with contemporary band The Ballroom Rockets providing their takes on ‘Broken Hearted Gypsy’ and ‘The Train With The Rumba Beat’. Due to Johnny Horton’s early demise, there’s several track titles making the connection with such candidates as ‘Doorway To Heaven’ (Billy Barton) and ‘Springtime In Heaven’ (Nick Williams with The Treece-Reece Trio). Other areas, you will find familiar names Johnny Cash chipping in with ‘I’d Still Be There’, Rose Maddox ‘Ole Slew Foot’ and Horton’s second wife, Billie Jean Horton, adding ‘Here Comes Trouble’. A worthy tribute to former musician Johnny Horton that provides a similar route when compiling his music to other compilations, yet one that also adds something different via numerous connections and ideas when deciding on an overall track list. Highly recommended.


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Rock ‘n’ Roll Kittens Vol.4

Various Artists

Atomicat

Final word on the series ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kittens Vol.4’ arrives and is packed once more with twenty-five tracks featuring a female voice on the rockin’ front. With familiar names lining up with less familiar names, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kittens Vol.4’ offers much scope when it came to those women striving to make a name for themselves in a very male-dominated industry during this particular period in history. Such mettle reveals itself early on with Betty Johnson providing a perfect blend of two genres joined at the hip of ‘Honky Tonk Rock’ and giving a powerful intro to this compilation with strong vocals and solid rhythm section. Linda Hayes adds to this determined start with equally strong vocals and the rhythm and blues track ‘Name Ain’t Fannie’, followed by Janice Martin’s version of ‘Ooby Dooby’, which by no means lets the side down because it certainly rocks. Keeping the momentum going is excellent rollin’ and country-rockin’ rhythm of ‘Sweet Talk’ supplied by Bunny Paul and followed by always reliable Patsy Cline with ‘Stop Look And Listen’. Other choice delights can be heard via breath-taking ‘Learning To Love’ (Martha Lynn) and powerhouse vocals, twice over, from Marie Knight and ‘I Thought I Told You Not To Tell Them’ and by Annisteen Allen ‘I’ve Got Troubles’. Certainly ending this series on a high note judging by yet more rockin’ tracks from Jo Ann Campbell (‘Tall Boy’), Betty James (‘I’m A Little Mixed Up’) and wildness that is ‘The Big Bounce’ (Shirley Caddell) and sublime Little Esther with ‘If It’s News To You’, there’s no doubt these women could rock with their male counterparts as ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Kittens Vol.4’ clearly displays.



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