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Fool Mule

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Attempting to offer the “Funny Side of Rhythm and Blues” according to its front cover, the album ‘Fool Mule’ sets out its target with no less than twenty-eight tracks made up of various artists. What you can expect from the outset is several artists with very little known about their status apart from the fact that they happened to record a song or two. Once ‘Fool Mule’ opens its doors, the sense of originality running through a large portion of the tracks is a delight to behold. The opening duo of Eddy Jones & The Cyclones ‘Say What?’ and double headed delivery of ‘Psycho Serenade’ leaves a huge grinning exterior, which later extends to Satch Arnold and genuinely sounding like he’s ‘On The Run’, before blowing out (or should that be bowing out?) via Freddy Koenig’s version of ‘Road Runner’. There’s a real assortment of characters and musicians filling these sides and makes for a sheer delight whether bordering on comical, hence the album’s title, or sounding straighter but with song titles providing another impression altogether (i.e. Haskall Sadler and ‘Bald Headed Woman’ or Delmer Wilburn & The Mandals’ ‘My Kissin’ Cousin’). Far from any suggestion of being a compiled mess, ‘Fool Mule’ reveals itself to be packed to the rafters with engaging and often original songs that will leave you laughing one minute and then downright curious the next. A true treasure chest of musical compositions that deserves to be heard.


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You’re Too Bad

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Dropping a massive clue via its artwork to the contents of this latest release from the Koko Mojo label is the album ‘You’re Too Bad’. Blues from a bygone era is what to expect with the harmonica the chosen instrument of choice and main feature driving this latest compilation. With the Mojo Man pointing out Little Walter as the only “big name” here, it will be down to those who truly know their blues music inside out and therefore most likely to pick out one or two other names from this list of otherwise obscure artists. First up is Pee Wee Hughes and you get a feel of the harmonica immediately with the lively ‘I’m A Country Boy’. Following in similar fashion is Joe Williams (‘Goin’ Pack Po’) and Schoolboy Cleve ‘She’s Gone’. There’s a sense of poetry attached to the delivery of Willie Nix’s interpretation of ‘Just Can’t Stay’ as it delivers in spoken word with the accompanying instrumentation sounding improvised as it aims to keep pace. It’s a sublime track and worth the price of this CD alone! If you’re looking for proof that the harmonica can rock, then Sammy Johns & The Devilles provide the closest evidence of this during the rollicking ‘Making Tracks’. Dave Kirk maintains the rockin’ rhythm with additional piano giving the harmonica a run for its money with ‘Oh! Baby’, before the pared back and dusty feel of Mule Thomas’ ‘Blow My Baby Back Home’ providing a wonderful reminder of this genre at its most primitive. Another fine compilation that focuses heavily on the harmonica and, in the process, coming up with a real few hidden delights.


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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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I Want Blood

Suburban Dirts

Old Jank Records

Released on Old Jank Records, ‘I Want Blood’ is the latest album from UK Americana/country outfit, Suburban Dirts. This new addition to Suburban Dirts creative output follows on from previous album, ‘A Tiny Little Island In The Big Bad Sea’, and arrives in rather epic fashion, due to containing fifteen tracks that relay some rather uncivilised and gruesome tales concerning “…pre-cowboy America, real frontier stuff”, which could easily provide the soundtrack to a film of similar ilk. It makes for compulsive listening and really starts with the gothic horror of ‘The Harpe Brothers Theme’; based on a real-life tale of brothers Micajah ‘Big’ Harpe and Wiley ‘Little’ Harpe who were American War Of Independence mercenaries, highwaymen, scoundrels and any other similar associated description one would like to add. Regarded as America’s first serial killers, the Harpe Brothers made their presence felt via various gruesome acts, which reveals its story at various intervals throughout this latest album by Suburban Dirts. From the clanking rhythm and narrative of the opening ‘The Harpe Brothers Theme’ sketching out the initial details of the aforementioned Harpe brothers, there are however, enough sweeter sounding moments to suggest this album is not entirely sheltered under a dark cloud. Far from it as there are enough examples of light filtering through the darker edges, which can be heard from the welcoming, and very authentic country sound of ‘Home’, with its use of violin, piano and steel strings, to the stirring beauty of instrumentation that details ‘Eli’, before arriving at the haunted memories of a relationship plaguing ‘To Dance With You Again’; the latter of which is a magnificent piece of work, and a song to be truly proud of. With some of the tracks playing out like interludes during a film, and therefore helping to knit the segments together, it is these moments that reveal some nice and memorable touches (‘As Long As You Are’), not to mention quirky additions (‘School Tomorrow’), as well as serving as a reminder that the storm clouds are never too far away (‘Ballad Of Little Harpe’). Clearly, much thought and attention to detail has gone into the preparation and making of this long player, which sets up ‘I Want Blood’ as Suburban Dirts’ most accomplished album to date, and one that is going to be difficult to surpass.


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Sundowner

Angels Die Hard

Jezus Factory Records

Never ones to do things by half measures, Angels Die Hard found their sources of inspiration for their second album release on a remote island in South East Asia. The location was situated in the Andamans and it was here that band members Alex Van Herk (Synths/Loops, etc.), Alain Rylant (Drums/Percussion, Theremin, etc.), Thomas Noppe (Guitars), in addition to guest trumpeter Sigrid Van Rosendaal became rankled by a few issues as a result of the problems associated with capitalism infecting this idyllic and remote location. The end result is eight instrumentals containing varying degrees of psychedelia, post punk and electronica that intertwine and call on numerous sources, with Brian Eno and Jah Wobble being two immediate candidates springing to mind, Angels Die Hard certainly project a gripping sonic soundscape during their second album. With song titles seemingly referring to the previously mentioned (evil) influences of capitalism worming its way through to this remote island and thus having an environmental impact (‘Stray Angel’, ‘Acid Beach’, ‘Dancing Algae’) but also socially (‘Stray Angel’, ‘No Apron For Emily’, ‘Gutter Glory’), Angels Die Hard certainly do their utmost to project the various pollutants they discovered first-hand via darker shades musically, but at the same maintain a sense of optimism that can be heard during lighter moments of ‘Tears of The Cobra’ for example. To discover for yourself, then simply immerse your ears in this thought-provoking body of work where music can really illustrate a number of emotions felt where injustices reside.


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Come Again

Grand Blue Heron

Jezus Factory Records

With a plethora of bands associated with Grand Blue Heron ranging from The Jesus Lizard, Ride, The Chameleons, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Motorpsycho, My Bloody Valentine and so on, it’s safe to say that, despite a range of influences being associated with this four-piece band from Belgian, there’s no other band currently doing the rounds who sounds exactly like them either, and therefore Grand Blue Heron sound like, well, Grand Blue Heron. So forget what has gone before and heed the words accredited to the band’s press release where it explains, “Known now for having a very particular, yet recognizable sound of their own…” Such words ring true once ‘WWYDS?’ opens this second account for Grand Blue Heron where the sound is cold and desolate yet trying its hardest to generate warmth via its lead guitar. From such distant openings, the double sonic crunch of ‘Come Again’ and ‘Head’ unfurl in a distorted tangle of guitars, with ‘Come Again’ eventually ironing out its creases due to its rhythm becoming shorter and sharper in terms of its bite, as does ‘Head’ yet it cannot shake the dirt from its exterior. It’s a compelling start that only continues to enthral and that is down to Grand Blue Heron never remaining stagnant in one particular sound. Such examples can be heard via the more cohesive and melodic ‘Iron Milk’, to the atmospheric ‘The Killing Joke’, before sailing through the excellent and, if pushed, heroic direction of the guitars during ‘The Cult’, which is expansive and experimental but never strays from the parameters set. Grand Blue Heron has erased any notion of “difficult second album syndrome” by retaining several of their debut album’s finer moments and taking these to the next level by some considerable creative distance via ‘Come Again’.


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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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Cock Tales

Cat Lee King & His Cocks

Rhythm Bomb

With the band’s moniker coming under scrutiny and receiving a rather negative response on an underground radio station quite recently, it’s true to say that Cat Lee King & His Cocks and their new album ‘Cock Tales’ is likely to cause, if anything, a large portion of mirth among punters and press critics alike. There is much suspicion on these shores that the five-piece band from Germany are aware of the likely discussions and endless jokes that will stem from their moniker and title of their debut long player. But applaud them as we do because it’s the sort of attention that will turn heads and then, once knowledge of their authentic take on rhythm and blues spills forth and begins to hit home, any clever or crass decisions (depending on your own interpretation) regarding names and titles is soon forgotten about. Once ‘Cock Tales’ gets underway, any listener will soon forget the (unfortunate) title of both band and record because the album is a delight from start to finish. By delivering an ‘old-school’ rhythm and blues sound that is crafted from the 40s and 50s and without a trace of any modern touches, Cat Lee King & His Cocks get to work on fourteen tracks that are a mixture of covers and original compositions. It makes for a cool and sophisticated sounding collection, but one that has plenty of raw edges and therefore making for a fine balance of styles and influences. From their own number ‘Sweet Sandy Lee’ that brings Chuck Berry to the party via its opening raw guitar, and then followed by such sultry numbers as ‘I Wanna Love Somebody’ and much-loved and covered by numerous rockin’ bands ‘Drinkin’ Wine’, Cat Lee King & His Cocks certainly know how to rock. But equally compelling are the band’s ability to change things up with varying tempos and influences and, in the process, conjure up such magic as the thoughtful and classy sounding ‘Farewell Mademoiselle’ to ‘You’re The Greatest’ and then toss in a heavier dose of blues via ‘I Don’t Need No Money’, before offering one of their finest moments ‘Ain’tcha’ that was head of a recent EP campaign. Certainly form your own opinion when it comes to both name and title of band and record, but there’s one thing that cannot be disputed and that’s the sheer class of music blaring from this debut album that will have you smitten in no time.


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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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Deluxe Lo-Fi

Little Victor

Rhythm Bomb

Something of a coup securing the signature of blues artist Little Victor who issues latest album ‘Deluxe Lo-Fi’. The title of this new release from Little Victor accurately sums up the overall feel of this long player with a definite ‘lo-fi’ approach to the song writing throughout, but not without a sense of lavishness thrown in as well, which can be identified from the lengthy list of well-known contributors ranging from Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt), Steve Lucky (Blues Persuaders, Johnny Copeland), Carl Sonny Leyland (Chuck Berry, James Cotton, Louisiana Red) to name but a few. With the album being dedicated to Little Victor’s hero and musical partner Iverson Minter (aka Louisana Red), there’s plenty of personal touches from the handwritten tracks listed on the back cover that, if perused closely, read like the ups and downs of any relationship to the homely recording/production of the actual songs with their vintage qualities giving off a scent of times passed by. It’s the lo-fi qualities that really appeal, and certainly set their hooks in early via the swamp blues doubleheader ‘My Mind’ and ‘Graveyard Boogie’. Equally impressive is the following ‘I Done Got Tired’ and ‘This Letter’, with both tracks sounding at the end of their tethers and emotionally broken with a raw primitive blues supplying the musical accompaniment. From such wonderful (yes wonderful!) trudging rhythms, Little Victor mixes things up by transforming the tempo via the lively yet still gritty ‘Slow Down Baby’ that features the aforementioned Steve Lucky and, later on, ‘What’s The Matter Now’ with Jo Buddy that is reminiscent of Little Richard. Considering ‘Deluxe Lo-Fi’ is Little Victor’s first album in eight years, and with the man himself claiming this to be his best album since ‘Back To The Black Bayou’, Little Victor has very reason to believe so as ‘Deluxe Lo-Fi’ is a creative and engaging body of work that sounds as if it was recorded in an abandoned basement, yet gives off a highly professional and top quality feel that never once suggests a “lost tapes and B-sides” compilation. Top marks indeed!


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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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