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Rockabilly Dinosaur

Vince Eager & The Western All-Stars

Western Star

Vince Eager, one of the pioneers of the UK’s response to the rock ‘n’ roll sounds emanating from the United States, is back with an album that pays tribute to a number of performers from the fields of rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll. The knowing wink of the album title is, in fact, far wide of the mark for anyone fortunate enough to have seen Vince Eager perform at last year’s tenth anniversary celebrations of Western Star Records, as he peeled back the years with a standout performance. The title of the record also alludes to the reputation a lot of the original rockers held when wreaking havoc with their wild sounds and blooming popularity that was driving the local populace in any given town wild with excitement or cause for concern, depending on which side of the fence one was situated. With a nifty primal beat and sharpness of lyrics, ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’ recollects this emerging sound and the impact felt to great effect. Much respect is given to the original compositions throughout ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’, and there is a real sense of enjoyment from each and every song through to the memories recollected by Vince Eager in the accompanying booklet that makes for fascinating reading for those less familiar with his exploits. All of this, however, would not have been possible without the Western All-Stars (Alan Wilson, Steve Whitehouse, Liz Avent, Geoff Barker et al) adding their backing to such engaging renditions of Don Gibson’s ‘Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles’, Tommy Sand’s ‘The Worrying Kind’, Hank Snow’s ‘I’m Movin’ On’ and Peanut Wilson’s ‘Cast Iron Arm’ complete with stonking sax via Rachel Hutchinson. ‘Rockabilly Dinosaur’ is a reminder of the legend that is Vince Eager, but also one that pays homage to a variety of former artists and their songs admirably.

 


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Lotsa Rhythm

Gone Hepsville

Rhythm Bomb

With the Czech Republic currently Europe’s mecca for all-things musically landing somewhere between the forties and the fifties, Gone Hepsville is another addition to this growing band of artists hell-bent on recreating such bygone and golden passages in music’s rich history. The sheer quality of the musicianship, coupled with a breadth of influences stemming from the six band of brothers that make up Gone Hepsville is something to be marvelled at because what’s on offer with ‘Lotsa Rhythm’ is an album crammed full of big band, jump, swing, jive and rock ‘n’ roll cooked to an often pulsating rhythm that will have your limbs swinging in no time at all. If you want proof of life in these very songs, which stretches to an incredible 18 tracks, then the lively brass instrumentation and enthusiasm held in the vocal of the album’s title track, paired with the equally sparky ‘Hip As I Can Be’ are two clear indicators that these Hepsville cats are here to rock! ‘Lazy Town’ is a call to arms to kick-start the nondescript settlement into life with a compelling vocal nicely supported with a harmonious backing and then a powerhouse of brass, rolling drums and rollicking piano that gives this town a fresh lease of life. The ensuing ‘She Won’t Shut Up’ is a punchy number greatly exemplified by pounding keys and additional handclaps that really drills home its message by way of yet more proficiency in the musicianship. Great credit must also go to the production duties of Axel Praefcke at Lightning Recorders for the manner in which ‘Lotsa Rhythm’ is handled by capturing an inch perfect authentic sound because the entire album sounds like a genuine slab of 40s/50s nostalgia. With such careful precision and with great dedication to their overall work and sound, Gone Hepsville have created a long player that puts many to shame not only in terms of its inventiveness, but for the sheer energy and enthusiasm coming from all corners of this marvellous album that’s definitely not short of rhythm.


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Running Wild

Ruby Ann

Rhythm Bomb

Back with her new album ‘Running Wild’, Stateside resident Ruby Ann continues where top seller ‘Mama’s Back’ left off as far as quality control is concerned and, of course, an abundance of great tunes. It’s there in the details, having set up camp at Chicago’s Hi-Style studio and enlisted the help of such fellow rockin’ musicians as Eddie Clendening (‘The Rage of the Teen-Age!’) and Joel Patterson, as well as a number of the songs included in this latest release being penned by other songwriters including Mark Winchester, Big Sandy et al that sit nicely with several, carefully selected cover versions. There is a real sense of nostalgia every time Ms Ann steps up to the mic and opens up the vocal chords with an authentic take on a 50s sound, which is not simply about up-tempo rockin’ numbers but mid-paced setters (‘You Gotta Pay’) and others that incorporate elements of country or presented in the style of soulful balladry. With ‘Running Wild’ appealing to an established fan base, as well as acquiring a considerable number of new followers, Ruby Ann marks her return with a variation of musical styles that is finely tuned to a perfect twelve that consists of nothing but the highest quality. Mama’s definitely back, and back with style!


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Bring It On Home!

Twisted Rod

Rhythm Bomb

Weaving their way through the streets of Praha with every intention of bringing their authentic 50s rockin’ beats home to roost is Czech Republic outfit Twisted Rod. By issuing a clear warning that the contents of the band’s latest album comes with added oomph that may be too hot to handle for some listeners, Twisted Rod certainly live up to their cautionary notice by delivering a searing set of rockabilly numbers. Consisting of 15 tracks, ‘Bring It On Home!’ blazes a hot trail from its start-up song ‘Twisted Rod’, through to its concluding number ‘When I Watch You’ that reveals a tale full of obsession and wonderfully portrayed by some edgy vocals and a frantic rhythm. Bustling forward in a confident manner is ‘I Love You My Way’ that applies distortion on the vocals and works wonders, especially when vocalist Phil stutters his lines, “B-b-b-b-baby I love you my way” as if to reinforce his intentions. ‘Down The Line’ is of similar ilk to its predecessor, only this time reflecting on a derailed relationship that’s expertly conveyed by an enflamed vocal and tight rhythm section that keeps a respectful distance so that this ball of raw emotions is allowed to truly express itself. Two covers are given the Twisted Rod treatment with an exhilarating performance of Charlie Feathers’ ‘Stutterin’ Cindy’ and a vocally deep rendition of Benny Joy’s ‘Wild Wild Lover’ that’s as wild as its title suggests. Despite the majority of ‘Bring It On Home!’ being performed at a rapid pace, Twisted Rod shuffle their rhythm slightly to allow for a reduced tempo that reveals not only one of the album’s highlights, but another side to their armoury by way of ‘Tijuana 45’. It’s a song with nothing but revenge on its mind as the dark narrative takes notes from Nick Cave before setting out on its journey to the accompaniment of a shimmery guitar that sparks into life once our assailant reaches their destination.  If that wasn’t enough to suggest ideas for future directions, then the bluesy ‘Ridin Down The Highway’ answers any such concerns with an animated harmonica and throaty yell that definitely brings it on home for this Czech three-piece. By the time Twisted Rod arrive at their terminus, you will be clamouring for a repeat performance of this exhilarating ride because ‘Bring It On Home!’ is really that good.


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Red Light Blues

The Wolftones

Western Star

Describing The Wolftones as the real deal is an accurate description as they remain a unit that is emotionally driven which, as a result, can produce some of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll music one is likely to experience depending, however, on which mood decides to reveal itself on any one particular occasion. There is no doubting that The Wolftones rockin’ blues is best served up in a live setting, as when this five-piece are on their game there are not too many contenders. Such a description can be applied to the band’s current album ‘Red Light Blues’, due to moments that really enthral whereas on other occasions the band sounds lacklustre when they should be soaring. Such occasions can be gleaned from the album’s title track and next in line ‘Only You’, as both numbers give the impression of a band warming up for the main event rather than an explosive force considering their entry in the pecking order. Fortunately, salvation arrives once the dynamic guitar intro of ‘Blues On My Mind’ presents itself and The Wolftones jolt into action with a rumblin’, red-hot number that is captured to great effect as it goes someway to realising their live, raw sound. ‘Shake It Baby’ teases the senses with its initial guitar pickin’ and one can sense the emergence of something special beginning to edge its way out of the speakers, which duly arrives via James Jimbob Sullivan’s harmonica and Sully’s directional guitar playing. The duo of ‘The Stooge’ and ’21 Nights In Jail’ offer more of the same as far as the rhythmic blues mingling with rock edges goes, before taking a darker twist with the intriguing gothic tinges of ‘Devil Prowler’ that positions The Wolftones in slightly unfamiliar territory and all the better for it. Lead singer Jay Bircumshaw definitely preserves his vocal chords until the final cluster of songs – namely ‘Rooster Blues’, ‘Insane’, ‘Shot Down’ and ‘No Matter’ – by providing a commanding presence throughout as one can hear the frontman loosening up and letting his emotions pour out. It would appear The Wolftones is balancing a delicate combination of emotions that on one hand can provide moments of inspiration that propels them to greatness, but on the other hand there are occasions where they appear to epitomise the very sentiments of one of their songs (‘Blues On My Mind’) that hampers their progress with less inspired works. If The Wolftones can channel the positives of ‘Red Light Blues’, then their next creative venture could be the album that realises their full potential.


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‘…Somewhere Down The Line’

Cow Cow Boogie

Rhythm Bomb

Firm favourites at Famous Last Words (FLW) after experiencing the rousing western swing and country boogie of first album ‘Rendezvous’, which landed on the desk approximately this time last year, second album ‘…Somewhere Down The Line’ issued on the Rhythm Bomb imprint is equally impressive, but also offers a tad more compared to its predecessor. Where this second album differs is due to the lovely, understated qualities to the majority of songs on offer. Such understated qualities leads one to suggest an overall degree of pleasantness, but such a description is fitting and meant with genuine affection. Kicking things off, the travelling blues of second-album opener ‘Somewhere Down The Line’ triggers the senses immediately with its use of harmonica and moments of lap steel, only for the mood to take a swinging uplift with the gorgeous wit and one in the eye for the PC brigade with the delightful ‘Home Cookin’. Appropriate action is applied to the cover of the Louvin Brothers’ classic ‘Cash On The Barrelhead’ as Cow Cow Boogie apply their touches with a pacier version of this song, which is highly commendable. Dropping in at the midway point is the excellent double serve of the late-night enticement of the jazz and blues inspired ‘Track 49’, with its tempting offer of “choo-choo, get yourself over to track 49”, only to see temperatures soar further with the sultry and canny ‘Steam Heat’. Once the western influenced ‘Rain’ enters a gallop, it is clear that Cow Cow Boogie is not only a talented bunch of musicians, but one that is blessed in the ideas and creativity departments which, when combined, produces the marvellous results found throughout ‘…Somewhere Down The Line’.


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All The Way Up

Ilias

Aguenar

The breakdown of communication seems to be a recurring theme for Algerian/Australian singer-songwriter and musical producer Ilias when it comes to his second effort ‘All The Way Up’. With one given the option of choosing which artwork should represent this sophomore album consisting of three space themes, any notion of a trial separation from a current relationship is either being taken to extremes or alternatively suggesting that such an option has long since departed. Beginning where previous long player ‘Somewhere In Time’ left off with the reflective guitar stroll of ‘Someone Like You’, there is enough suggestion, musically, that the windows of opportunity are opening for the first time despite the lyrical severance at the heart of this song. Such optimism gathers further momentum with the breezy indie-pop ‘My Girl With Blue Eyes’ that continues to have links to its predecessor ‘Somewhere…’ but also provides the first indicator of a departure from this former album due to being consistently tighter in its execution and offering a more full-bodied approach. ‘All The Way Up’ deviates truly from any former path once the atmospheric ‘Picture The Sun..’ glides into view and sets up the much-touted, in these very pages, of former single ‘Fire Away’. It was the manner in which ‘Fire Away’ seemed to dramatically dispel any former guidelines by throwing itself to the lions and undergo a major transformation with its film score concept and flitting rhythmic pattern that suggested only one word, DRIVE. From this neon lit landscape of LA, the influence of Radiohead can be heard with the melancholic ‘It’s All About Her’ that exists in its own shell of atmospheric electronics and quiet acoustic guitar and is complimented by the memory held during ‘Turn The Clock Back’ with a nice touch of glockenspiel. ‘Jet Glow’ is the proceeding vapour trail and provides further room for reflection with its emerging and often moody guitar reflexes. Despite suggestion of a future direction involving film scores, Ilias continues his love affair with indie music as ‘She’s Someone Else’s Problem Now’ pays homage to The Smiths, whereas elements of Radiohead spring to mind once more during ‘Finding You’ considering its somewhat improvised guitar with a rather nasty bite. The reprise of ‘Someone Like You’ is a fitting finale not only for surpassing its former incarnation with a vocal that gives an honest account of personal loss, but also for being the last tear shed on a body of work that is consistently better and creatively richer than its predecessor. ‘All The Way Up’ is a magnificent achievement and one that offers plenty of scope for future directions.


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Futurology

Manic Street Preachers

Columbia

A quick turnaround from the Manic Street Preachers after the critical success that was last year’s ‘Rewind The Film’. Back with a thirteen-track album that marks a significant change of direction for this Welsh trio by drawing on a number of electronic influences ranging from Kraftwerk to early Simple Minds, due to a longstanding affection for such musical reference points but also as a result of a previous road trip throughout Europe when touring that proved inspirational. That is not to say that ‘Futurology’ is not without the various ticks and nuances of a typical MSP album because there are signs of their post-punk sound via a number of guitar riffs and lead singer James Bradfield’s instantly recognisable vocal that still amazes with its ability to navigate its way around complex and jagged lyrics. Another notable difference is the role Nicky Wire’s bass performs as it pushes to the fore during a number of songs with a real authority (‘Walk Me To The Bridge’, ‘Misguided Missile’) à la Derek Forbes and provides a solid spine to the band’s more adventurous urges. While there is suggestion of a certain level of bleakness considering the trip back in time, there is light between the covers as suggested by the immediacy and breezy nature of the title track and furthered exemplified by the rousing chorus of ‘Walk Me To The Bridge’ with its golden splashes of electronica. Politics and a sense of detachment is portrayed to great effect during the machinelike ‘Let’s Go To War’, only to be usurped in the futuristic mechanical stakes by the hypnotic electronic pulses of ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’. There is no doubting the Manics’ love affair with music as ‘Futurology’ continues a previous trend of guest vocalists with Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside’s wondrous touch on ‘Between The Clock And The Bed’ being one such highlight. Such affection, however, also gets the better of them and is best illustrated by the instrumental ‘Dreaming A City (Hugheskova)’ as it is no ‘Theme For Great Cities’. Thankfully, this remains the only hiccup in what transpires to be a monumental leap forward for the Manic Street Preachers, without completely ditching their past, as the barely audible intro of the krautrock-inspired ‘Mayakovsky’ raises much curiosity, if you know a thing or two about the Manic Street Preachers history, by ushering in a bit of The Beatles ‘White Album’. It appears the Manic Street Preachers is entering a rich vein of form and one that is opening up to the possibilities of experimentation. Hopefully, the band’s next endeavour will continue along a similar path as ‘Futurology’ because it is definitely among their finest works but, more importantly, it’s the first signs of a fresh start.


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Stay Gold

First Aid Kit

Columbia

Having reviewed former single ‘My Silver Lining’ ‘ in these very pages, it is pleasing to hear that sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have stuck to a winning formula comprising of alt-country blessed with heavenly vocals and lyrics of an introspective nature. The Stockholm-based duo sound closer to the rural south of America than their native Sweden, such is their song writing abilities and sincerity, which is captured once more by producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk). With the precursor that was the previously mentioned single to this latest release, lush strings and delicate melodies can often be heard throughout ‘Stay Gold’ as it’s brimming with confidence musically, with only a handful of lyrics giving the game away regarding a variety of anxieties professing to be “as big as the moon”. The trail of quality is most definitely hot throughout ‘Stay Gold’, as indicated by the sweetly addictive melody of ‘Master Pretender’, folk inspired ‘Cedar Lane’ with its huge aching heart, and topped by the waiflike and atmospheric qualities of the album’s title track. With a host of gigs and festival appearances imminent, First Aid Kit, on this current form, is the very definition of their album title as their success looks set to continue.


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Savage Beat

Frantic Rockers

Rhythm Bomb

What begins, surprisingly, in a bit of a whimper ends up resembling something akin to the name Frantic Rockers and their ‘Savage Beat’. Having not had the pleasure of witnessing Frantic Rockers in a live scenario, one suspects that their brand of wild rock ‘n’ roll, with a heavy dose of the blues, is a force to be reckoned with when up on stage. In terms of their current issue out on Rhythm Bomb Records, the opening trio of ‘I Wanna Boogie’, ‘Hoodoman Blues’ and ‘Rolling Stone’ remain a bit tepid in the sound department and give the impression of a band warming up before all cylinders are fully firing. Once that torch paper is lit, however, then some serious rockin’ action begins and starting with use of the harmonica during ‘Crying and Pleading’, which is supported by vocalist Jesse’s persuasive delivery. With the harmonica warming up during the former song, it is red hot by the time it gets to the absolutely flyin’ ‘All Through The Night’, with Jesse getting in to his stride and keeping tabs with the scorchin’ rhythm. The Frantic Rockers is definitely a tight unit musically, but they also possess an important ingredient in vocalist Jesse as this frontman has the ability to possess songs with a raw and domineering voice that steers such examples as ‘Rumours’ and ‘Howling’, but also add a touch of variety by breaking into spoken word passages during opener, ‘I Wanna Boogie’. Despite the earlier misgivings, Frantic Rockers ‘Savage Beat’ eventually does exactly what it states on the tin, and that is deliver an exhilarating ride of wild and savage bluesy rock ‘n’ roll.


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Let’s Go Sparkin’ With…

The SideWynders

Rhythm Bomb

An appropriate album title for The Sidewynders with ‘Let’s Go Sparkin’ With…’ as there is a real energy fizzing between the grooves of the majority of songs, but also there is much to get incensed about judging by the angst that relationships can (sometimes) bring and reflected here. Beginning with the sprightly sounding ‘Lyin’ Baby’ with added steel strings, the contents of this song reveals a different tale, however, and one of a relationship that went sour and now replaced with resentment as indicated by the parting shot, “I hope that you live life with regret, with my heart you are in debt, because baby – baby what you done to me is lowdown dirty crime”. This is why The Sidewynders matter so much because they really do care about their feelings and the state of their music which, by the way, is as every bit skilled as the ideas and personal reflections scribbled here. Unfortunately, for these cool cats, the relationship stakes fail to see an improvement as far as luck goes, but it all makes for compelling listening which, combined with the dextrous guitar and light rhythm of ‘Fancy Free’ and followed by the rockabilly and severely broken heart of ‘No Shame’, The Sidewynders know something about turning misery into sheer delight. There is a touch of the Bill Haley’s with the percussion entrance of ‘Dry Run’, which proceeds with a similar rhythm to ‘Jailhouse Rock’, and then catching a second wind with the breezy tempo of ‘Closer & Closer’ that showcases some fine vocals. Just before last orders is called though, The Sidewynders up the ante further, as far as any competition is concerned,  by revealing the creative delight that is ‘She’s Got It Made’, taking its inspiration from big band and swing and offering superb interchanging and dual vocals that makes our life definitely complete!


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Lew Phillips

Lew Phillips

Rhythm Bomb

‘Fallin’ In Love Is Easy’ is the introduction to Lew Phillips eponymously titled album on Rhythm Bomb Records, but it is also the first introduction to the second coming of the late and supremely great legend that was Buddy Holly. No doubt Lew Phillips is either experiencing one of two emotions and that is extreme gratitude with being compared to one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll music, or such a comparison is beginning to grate after being informed umpteen times, “Wow! You sound like…” There is simply no escaping the fact though, when hearing Lew Phillips for the first time it will leave you breathless, momentarily, before the senses begin to react once more and the next step requires a quick look at the album cover just to make sure you followed the instructions correctly when inserting or setting down the correct album. Despite such a glaring comparison, there is definite genius at work here as all of the compositions are originals and penned by Lew Phillips himself, but it is the manner in which he moulds a number of them as if providing his interpretation of various Buddy Holly songs. For example, ‘Marie-Lou’ is Lew Phillips homage to ‘Peggy Sue’, complete with one or two vocal hiccups that really come to the surface during the excellent ‘Be My Baby’ and is probably the closest replica of Buddy Holly vocally coming through the speakers along with the equally infectious ‘Tell Me Why’. For our money though, the doo-wop backing and Lew Phillips pining over the memory that was ‘Laurie-Anne’ is the main source of treasure among many wonderful delights. Lew Phillips self-titled record will leave you speechless for a number of reasons, with one openly obvious one.



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