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By My Side

Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets

Rhythm Bomb

The Second coming of Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets has been eagerly anticipated on this side of the fence after creating a bit of a stir with their debut album approximately two years ago. With the new addition titled, ‘By My Side’, the thirteen compositions on offer – all original apart from the inclusion of a solitary cover – almost reads as a list of the trials and tribulations associated with one, or any number of relationship(s). With no word of this being a concept album, the songs, as mentioned earlier, certainly appear to favour such a direction. However, no matter the overall intentions of ‘By My Side’, there is definite soul-searching afoot whether trying to repair the gaping wound left by ‘Hole In My Heart’, expressed with a mixture of confusion and heartache, and then proceeding to neatly tie in the searching impression given by the band’s creative playing during the rather sublime ‘I’ll Find A Way’. Where this latest album differs in comparison to its debut is that Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets sound more confident in their stride, by throwing a few variations to their overall sound. While such variations are subtle, there is one noticeable curveball and that arrives with the bluesy lead track, ‘By My Side’, consisting of slide guitar and powerhouse vocals, and is just short of a harmonica to complete the full blues set. From such a terrific beginning, the quality of the song writing retains a consistency as demonstrated by the short and perky steps of ‘You Don’t Care’, with a lead guitar sounding full of improvisation, to the Sunday afternoon vibe surrounding ‘Pretty Baby’ despite the tension held by its lyrics. When there is disruption, however, it arrives in a compelling holler via ‘I’m Gonna Leave You’ and a series of vocal hiccups during ‘Jungle King’, that provides further evidence of a band beginning to feel at ease with themselves and allowing for a few ideas to flourish. Overall, ‘By My Side’ runs like a well-oiled machine as it’s tighter in its focus yet allows for a fresh layer of creativity to be applied to parts of its contents that leads to genuine progression in the Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets sound, and there is no better sense of achievement than that.


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Good Taste In Bad Friends

Crystal & Runnin' Wild

Rhythm Bomb

With no prior knowledge of what to expect once ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’ was inserted into the CD player, one could be forgiven for thinking Aqua for the rockabilly market when weighing up the kitsch imagery and actual contents inside. Such a suggestion is not too far from the truth, however, as three out of the four band members – Crystal Dawn (vocals), Johnny Trash (drums) and Patrick Ouchene (guitar) – have participated in talent contests throughout Europe, with the Eurovision Song Contest being one of the most notable. Far closer to such a description, however, is the assortment of styles sewn into the majority of songs on offer here. This eclectic mix of tastes no doubt stems from the band’s already established involvement with various televised contests where influences from rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and a comedic singing routine have been chosen as part of their individual repertoires. When it comes to the contents of ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’, the album is predominantly rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, but with the band carefully and skilfully bleeding other influences into the songs. Take, for example, the roaring two-sided rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll of ‘What A Way To Die’, containing some of the wildest guitar playing you are likely to hear this side of the modern rockin’ scene. Sassy vocals from Crystal Dawn jumpstarts ‘Up Above My Head’, which brings an instant smile that grows close to Cheshire Cat sized proportions once the male vocals add their contributions to the narrative, with one comedic turn by way of Johnny Trash, and it really makes for great listening. The same impression can be applied to ‘Blood On The Kitchen Floor’ with its twang of the guitar providing that lonesome desert feel, in addition to the theatrical delivery of one vocal in particular that creates an awkward position of not knowing whether to laugh or cry considering the grave nature of the lyrics. These compelling traits however, are also the albums undoing because by the time ‘Bad Boy’ arrives it all becomes too much, with the exaggerated second vocal starting to grate somewhat, and the shift in styles becoming muddled (‘Oh By Jingo’). A shortened version of ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’ would have benefitted the competing interests of Crystal & Runnin’ Wild more greatly because, despite the talent on display here, various ideas become overworked and end up losing their initial appeal.


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The Kabooms

The Kabooms

Rhythm Bomb

A vintage sound from a vintage era but one now firmly planted in 2015, The Kabooms see their debut album released on Rhythm Bomb Records. Clearly passionate about their choices of gear when committing their songs to the recording process, judging by the detailed inventory of equipment listed in the liner notes, The Kabooms is a band that really cares about its craft. From such detailed information, it’s no surprise that the band’s own compositions pack the same level of detail. Less obvious though, is the actual direction of the music generated by this Spanish combo. Despite peddling an authentic rockabilly sound, it’s one that is far less obvious in terms of which direction it is likely to take. For example, don’t expect a searing sound to come hurling from your speakers as perhaps expected given the band’s title. If anything, this album is more concerned with taking a controlled approach to its song writing, but with enough suggestion of a lurking wildness just below its surface. The song ‘Black Days’ is one such example where its tempo remains at a medium pace yet manages to generate a sense of unease via its raspy vocal and various subtle hints given by the instruments. Lead vocalist Matt Olivera sounds like a hoarser version of Darrel Higham during the wishful thinking of ‘Only Mine’, before changing track and adding vocal hiccups to the skulking rhythm of ‘Pretty Baby’. By shoehorning fourteen tracks into a time just under thirty minutes is some feat, but one that is all the more remarkable when considering the amount of detail compressed into such a short running time that should see a high level of repeat visits as ‘The Kabooms’ will leave you thinking long after its brief stay.


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KILLSWITCH!

The Rip 'Em Ups

Rhythm Bomb

Been a long time since we rock and rolled, but what a difference the passing of time can make. From going from one of our least favourite acts at the Rockabilly Rave of two years ago to a position of firm favourites here at FLW, it’s definitely a case of eat humble pie on our behalf. Quite literally dropping the bomb musically, the dish served up by The Rip ‘Em Ups with their debut album ‘KILLSWITCH!’ is absolutely incendiary.  From the opening blast of ‘I Wanna Love You’ and the stylishly named Javier De La Rosa setting the temperature to max with raw and passionate vocals and pinpoint guitar, in addition to the able hands of Jose ‘Watts’ Rodriguez (guitar), Edgar Villarreal (bass), Santos De Leon (drums) and Marco Palos (sax), it’s authentic rock ‘n’ roll with a serious attitude but one that adds various spices to its sounds à la ‘Spitfire’, which also contains a volatile narrative to match. Title song ‘Kill Switch’ has a rebellious streak, expressed by a straight instrumental with bonus points awarded for its dynamic sax and almost too hot to handle guitars. The difference with The Rip ‘Em Ups first long player and the already mentioned live experience is that the songs sown here sound far clearer in their overall delivery, as there is less of the fuzzy sameness which dogged their live set. The energy of a Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard in their heydays is definitely in existence when hearing the contents of ‘KILLSWITCH!’, but it is the decision to adopt other approaches to their music which benefits greatly. Such differences can be heard during ‘The Game’ where the vocal is allowed to take centre stage. Also, the rhythm is slowed somewhat during ‘Wild Savage Woman’, but there is nothing lost in terms of the wildness of The Rip ‘Em Ups as the song possesses a sultry side, only this is expressed in a more controlled manner, especially with the line, “Wild savage woman with blood red eyes” that sums up everything you need to know here. By tossing in joyous sounding numbers such as ‘Bailamos Rock N Roll’ during its end credits, The Rip ‘Em Ups leave nothing but a feeling of being completely bowled over. Taken by surprise most definitely, not in terms of the band’s technical abilities, but there is less of the ear-splitting intensity of the live act and more of a considered and diverse approach, which still retains a thrilling edge yet it is one that transforms The Rip ‘Em Ups in to a band genuinely worth spending time with. Absolute dynamite!


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Hell Yeah

The Boners

Rhythm Bomb

Once you get past the sniggering behind the bike sheds humour of the band’s moniker and front cover art – the rear image is opted for here due to a variety of reasons – there is much to revel in when it comes to The Boners and their debut album, ‘Hell Yeah’, on Rhythm Bomb Records. Performing a modern take on rockabilly with its heftier sound and touch of the blues for added intensity, The Boners occupy similar territory to the likes of Stray Cats, John Lindberg Trio and Scandinavian rockin’ blues outfit, The Kokomo Kings. Having been a part of the furniture for a number of years, albeit in different guises in relation to the rockin’ scene, the quality of the song writing is watertight throughout ‘Hell Yeah’. This becomes evident once the deviant shenanigans of ‘Muchacha!’ makes itself heard by way of its memorable chorus, that should see this song as a live favourite after a few rounds on the circuit. There’s a deeper level of respect at work during ‘My Baby Don’t Like My Car’, revealing a band unafraid to show a difference of opinion and without too many complaints. The following ‘Lockdown’ thunders along at some pace with harmonica reinforcing the toughness of the guitar, rumbling bass and tight drums, which is not the only source of interest as the lyrics start in compelling fashion, “Well I’m on holiday here in the pen…” and then proceeding to reflect on the obvious frustrations of a restricted environment. Upping the tempo further is the rockabilly on speed of ‘Hotel With No Name’, with the band showing their creative side once more when scribbling a decent yarn. Such inventiveness extends itself to the excellent ‘Walk To The Light’, hinging initially on upright bass and lead vocal, before the rest of the band crash the party which, given the mysterious nature of the narrative, is one they should have avoided. Another potential (live) hit is ‘Driving’; a song full of energy, bass booming and containing a nice touch via backing vocals during its chorus (It’s the little things in life that sometimes make all the difference).  Up and running, The Boners look set for the long haul as ‘Hell Yeah’ is a consistent and confident start full of original material and all the more welcome because of it.


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Insane!

Longboards

El Toro

Continuing its obsession with instrumental albums in relation to the current rockin’ scene, El Toro issues the latest instrumental effort from Longboards. Despite not being a new fixture to this popular genre, due to a few releases prior to their latest release ‘Insane!’, Longboards continue to remain a significant part of this scene, which their current album attests. With the band’s interest in hot rods and dragsters taking centre stage this time out rather than one of their other prime interests of surfing, Longboards set their sound to the grease and grime as well as the high-octane fumes of the dragstrip. Taking full control from the off is the nimble guitar work and crisp drums of ‘Gordini’ that comes with added excitement via occasional samples consisting of hot rods and dragsters tearing up the racetrack. With such opening assurance, ‘Drag Beat’ never lets the side down by taking its corners with precision, neatly represented by way of the guitar’s vibrato arm and then proceeding at a lightning pace where, if you close your eyes, you can almost hear the fingers scaling up and down the fretboard of the guitar, it’s that good! The mood shifts during ‘Insane Dragster’ which is far more menacing in its approach with samples once more adding to the overall atmosphere. In contrast, ‘Molokai (Drunken Hawaiians)’ pacifies the mood with its calmer rhythm dousing the flames of the previous ‘Insane Dragster’. The ‘850 Special’ lives up to its name, due to bursting with energy as both guitars and drums are positioned at the front of the recording mix and giving the impression of vying for centre spot. A talented trio communicating an exciting and detailed set of emotions through their instruments, it’s ‘Insane!’ and it’s by Longboards.


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Cause of You…Two Cats

Rockin' Bonnie & The Mighty Ropers + The Starliters

El Toro

Released separately as two vinyl EPs, Rockin’ Bonnie & The Mighty Ropers + The Starliters is given the double treatment here as both EPs have also been issued as a singular CD album showcasing both releases. By combining both sets of vinyl works seamlessly as the western swing and country bop peppered lightly with elements of rockabilly and honky tonk blends appropriately and giving this an overall sense of one band performing throughout. With The Starliters kicking things off in fine style with their ‘Two Cats’ and followed up with the catchy hook of its chorus and near spoken word delivery of ‘Stuck On This Gal And Spin That Bottle’, it’s hoped that this four-piece band do not leave it another thirteen years before committing their creative ideas to a follow-up EP. The contributions from Rockin’ Bonnie and the Mighty Ropers make this EP a stalemate, if you’re concerned with such things, as the quality of songs is equally impressive. From the lazy, hazy feel of ‘Cause Of You’ given real credence by way of a laidback piano and lap steel guitar setting the mood accordingly. There is a great version of Hank Snow’s ‘Movin’ On’ that’s given a boost via a beefed up guitar, only to be edged out by the western swing influenced ‘I’ve Done Gone Hot Wild’. With this album being a generous offer of two for the price of one, coupled with the fact that both EPs are consistent in their song writing, ‘Cause Of You…Two Cats’ is one record that is going to be difficult to ignore.


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Hit The Floor With..

Brioles

El Toro

Formed in 1986 and hailing from Spain, Brioles is a trio comprising of brothers, Jorge and Daniel Nunes, and odd man out, Josep Maria. Considering the length of time this band has been performing, the comparisons associated with Brioles have been numerous, with the core of their music coming from 50s rock ‘n’ roll, but with definite strands of neo-rockabilly, psychobilly and topped off with a punk rock spirit. Brioles themselves seem to prefer the compromise of Briobilly, which makes itself known once the engine starts running and ‘So Mean’ clatters into life and rattles along at a frantic pace. ‘Yes, No’ provides the first inkling of a taste for punk rock, with its rough and ready approach suggesting a live take as far the recording goes. ‘Boppin’, however, finds Brioles in a reflective stance, with the isolated ‘bop’ of the character at the heart of this song doing his best to stave off the real feelings inside, “I do my best pretending that I don’t love you” with Brioles expertly capturing the mood with a mid-tempo beat. The clue is most definitely in the title regarding ‘Ready To Cha-Cha-Cha’ as it signals it’s ready for anything, especially once its brisk rhythm, partly wrapped around a repetitive guitar pattern, will have you firing on all cylinders in no time. The psychobilly tag looms large above the doorway of ‘Full Moon Spell’, as the song casts a shadow (in a good way!) over proceedings and offers another angle for Brioles to pursue because it’s definitely among the highlights here. With so much zest remaining in their creative tank, Brioles has every reason to stick around and maintain the bop because this is one floor worth hitting on.


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It’s A Scream!!!

Various Artists

El Toro

Arriving just in time before the next venture under the sun and on the sands of Calella, Spain is a compilation of dancefloor fillers personally handpicked from last year’s top DJs spinning the decks at the Screamin’ Festival. With eight DJs selecting three songs apiece, and a remit to provide a reason to shake those limbs, the songs chosen provide a breadth of rockin’ originals. There is no favouritism here as the choice cuts selected from each and every DJ is of the highest order but, unfortunately, there is simply not the time and space to detail each and every entry. The choice of rhythm and blues seems to slightly outweigh the straight rockabilly or rock ‘n’ roll songs and perhaps understandable when the inclusion of the unfortunately named Joseph ‘Mr Google Eyes’ August induces a bout of hip swinging with the rhythm and blues shake of ‘Rough & Rocky Road’, to the “interpret as you will” moniker of Bull Moose Jackson whose forceful rhythm and blues commands the upmost respect. Equally deserving of such recognition is the rhythm and blues rocker ‘If It’s News To You’ courtesy of Little Esther, which is nicely complemented by the compelling vocal delivery of Solomon Burke’s ‘Be Bop Grandma’ that starts off as a velvety tone and ends up almost a full-blown holler by its conclusion. The inclusion of ‘Hoots Mon’ by Lord Rockingham’s XI is a misfire and one that doesn’t rest easy with the rest of this compilation, but several remedies soon arrive in the shape of Ricky Nelson’s excellent rendition of the Baker Knight composition ‘I Wanna Be Loved’; the manic rock of Ralph Nielsen & The Chancellors’ ‘Scream’, and the primitive beats and humorous take of ‘Leopard Man’. ‘It’s A Scream!!! Original Soundtrack of The Screamin’ Festival’ houses enough rockin’ delights to keep your ears engaged and dance shoes moving until the next Screamin’ Festival arrives this year. What a wonderful addition this compilation is, and a great advert for a well-regarded music festival. Viva El Toro!


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Rockabilly Girl

Manny Jr. And The Cyclones

El Toro

Upon first inspection of Manny Jr. And The Cyclones’ ‘Rockabilly Girl’, one item that stood out from the rest was the slightly unconventional vocal, which has a way of sounding a bit off the pace (‘Baby I Don’t Care’) but, after repeat listens, the realisation dawns that what may sound like slight imperfections at first, are actually genuine characteristics that Manny Jr himself brings to these songs. With the jury previously undecided as to the fate of this overall collection, this clever four-piece band from Canada conjure up some rockabilly magic that is brimming with character and bustling with energy. Nowhere is this best served than the opening song ‘Flathead Coupe’ with its overstated deep vocal set to a chuggin’ rhythm supplied by The Cyclones and then, much later, by the late-night ambience created by the slower tempo and naturally raw vocals of ‘Stripper Baby’. This album would not be complete without some wild rockin’, which comes via the album’s title track and other examples such as ‘I Got A Date With You’ and even tougher guitars and vocal of ‘Mean, Mean Baby’. Gene Vincent proves to be something of an inspiration for Manny Jr. And The Cyclones, identified from the band’s artwork and tripping down through songs such as ‘Tougher Than That’ as well as cropping up in various other segments. The musicianship of Manny Jr. And The Cyclones is exemplary throughout, with fine examples coming by way of two instrumentals – the strollin’ ‘Just My Kind of Girl’ and tight rhythm of ‘Mr Eddie’ (listen out for that incredible guitar break folks!). Patience was definitely a virtue when it came to ‘Rockabilly Girl’ because without a second fair hearing, the genius, intelligence and talent of this Canadian rockabilly band would have been a loss of great proportions.


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Wet Side Stories

Jaguar & The Savanas

El Toro

El Toro Records is really turning up the heat with latest release from Jaguar & The Savanas with its occasionally wild, but more often controlled ride of surf-inspired instrumentals. Coming equipped with the self-proclamation of ‘Dedicated to all obscure surf bands like us’, Jaguar & The Savanas is probably under the illusion that their music is restricted to a limited audience, which may have been the case prior to the official launch of ‘Wet Side Stories’, but no doubt the tide has turned in their favour with the eight tracks complied here because there is simply no resistance against the infectious rhythms on offer. By creating a certain amount of mystery regarding the band – the comic book imagery for starters, as well as adopting the title of a popular musical and renaming it with a suggestive and insalubrious substitute – is the stuff rock ‘n’ roll was designed for, and something Jaguar & The Savanas certainly make the most of during their brief stay via ‘Wet Side Stories’. The impact of ‘The Ride of May Gray’ is immediate with its tough and gritty rhythm coming by way of some Dick Dale inspired surf guitar, which happens to follow suit with the equally engrossing ‘Castaway’. There is a measured tempo to ‘After The Ray Storm’, appropriately setting the mood for this song as there appears to be a genuine amount of contemplation occurring before finding its answer via the strolling beat of ‘Gator Rescue’. Such variations in style and pace is the key to Jaguar & The Savanas longevity because as it stands, ‘Wet Side Stories’ is a wonderfully  executed series of instrumentals that fit their billing accurately by maintaining a sense of ambiguity and level of excitement that never outstay their welcome.


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True Love Highway

The Shadowmen

Rhythm Bomb

From the high-altitude city of Albuquerque, New Mexico comes a rockabilly sound by way of The Shadowmen. Composed of sixteen tracks, ‘True Love Highway’ possesses a great deal of talent and one that is not shy when it comes to letting the creative strings fly. Such evidence can be gleaned from the real zip and zest of ‘Revenoor Man’ with its interesting choice of subject matter referring to the prohibition of a certain substance brewed locally. Elsewhere, The Shadowmen turn in genuine slices of 50s rockabilly with such examples as the magnificent ‘Ain’t That A Dilly’ and equally convincing ‘Oh Sally’. There is great guitar work punctuating throughout this album whether spiralling down the scales during the introduction of ‘Sleep Rock – A –Roll Rock – A – Baby’ or dominating the tempo of laidback, ‘True Love Highway’. This, however, is but one component which makes ‘True Love Highway’ the album it is, whereby this five piece manage to make things sound simple when, in fact, there are many subtle layers lurking beneath the surface and where their true craft lies. A clever album and one that will have you glued to its contents from the off, The Shadowmen has provided a suitable ally to accompany the trip along ‘True Love Highway’.



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