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Holy Smoke

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

“Don’t let love fool you!” Attached to this latest release of predominantly rhythm and blues artists from along-gone era is a message warning of the potential pitfalls that can be associated with that thing known as ‘love’. Without wishing to put any dampeners on any future romance, KoKo Mojo sets out its stall with another twenty-eight tracks that certainly rock and blow away any suggestions of the blues. In fact, what any listener is likely to experience for their listening pleasure via ‘Holy Smoke’ is a collection of tracks culled from history and selected for their addictive qualities when it comes to rhythm, but also their relevance to the subject matter at heart here. Therefore, expect songs that are filled with lovesick sentiments where infatuation can take hold – Baby Clifford King ‘Want To Jump With You’ or Tony Allan’s vocals capturing the mood to perfection during the album’s title track – or unrequited love via the forceful rhythm and blues of ‘Don’t You Want A Man Like Me’ from Jay Nelson. There’s a wonderful performance from Juke Boy Barner who delivers what sounds like a ramshackle performance during ‘Rock With Me Baby’, only for closer inspection to reveal that there’s deft hands at work here with far more going on under its bonnet. This, however, is only the beginning as from here on, the variety displayed ups its game further from Prince Royals’ superbly understated and centre of attention, ‘Anna Mae’, to the “great” Eddie Alexander & The Greats ‘I’m In Love’ (complete with accompanying ducks!), before rattling off a whole host of sophisticated rhythm and blues numbers such as ‘My Pretty Baby’ (Ernie Williams), ‘Ding Dong Babe’ (Jimmy McPhail), ‘I’ll Be True To You’ (Billy Fair & Orch.), and Little Johnny Cook with ‘Try Your Love’. There’s too much goodness to be found here, despite any notions of hearts being broken, because ‘Holy Smoke’ offers a passionate and classy taste of rhythm and blues that’s packing enough variety to keep any listener entertained for many hours. Top of its class!


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Burning Frets

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

“The Rhythm, The Blues, The Hot Guitar” this album most certainly is. Another long player packed with 28 tracks with, in this instance, the guitar taking centre stage. Once more this series of blues, rhythm and blues and rock ‘n’ roll throws off the shackles to show a broad range of lesser known artists to provide something different, but also to plug in pieces of history by discovering artists that were either ignored or simply forgotten about during their (brief) time attempting this thing known as rock ‘n’ roll. It is that very genre that this latest addition of this compilation series largely features, with guitars reigning supreme throughout as mentioned earlier. It must be said there is a little more familiarity with this volume with tracks such ‘Crawdad Hole’ supplied by Chuck Harrod & The Anteaters, and the rowdy ‘Justine’ from The Citations being two such examples. However, as with other volumes of this excellent series, there’s variety in the pack as both TV Slim (‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’) and Blue Charlie’s compelling take on ‘I’m Going To Kill That Hen’ offers a bout of the blues from two different levels. Elsewhere, Little Luther shines with only his guitar for company during ‘Automatic Baby’, whereas Guitar Shorty provides a fuller yet looser blend of blues and rock ‘n’ roll that tightens up immensely once ‘Quick Draw’ by Leo Price and Band arrive soon after. Great songs, full of varying tempos and supplied by some of the most fascinating names set to musical history (Boliver Shagnasty anyone?!), ‘Burning Frets’ certainly leaves a lasting impression that will have you coming back for more.


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Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

A full pot of drinking songs straight from the juke joints of America’s past where blues and rhythm and blues provided the backing track to the joys and pleasures that alcohol could bring, but also its use as a means to combat the ‘blues’ felt when relationship heartbreak came calling. With twenty-eight songs varying between moods and styles and given by artists ranging from Lightnin Hopkins, Rufus Gore, Jimmy Liggins, Dave Bartholomew and Jimmy Rogers to name but a small selection, the quality is set to high when it comes to the collection that is ‘Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey’. Whether it’s a pared back guitar affair via Lightnin Hopkins ‘Drinkin’ Woman’ or a more up-tempo singalong with Johnny Davis and ‘I’m A Wine Drinker’ with its more than happy approach to drink your quota if you’re not feeling up to it, this long player has pretty much got the lot. Take for example the swinging rhythm and stunning vocal pipes of Al Jackson during ‘Let’s Drink Some Whiskey’, to the rendition of Stick McGhee classic (and rockabilly favourite) ‘Drinkin’ Wine’ superbly handled by Larry Dale, before taking further twists and turns via two wonderful ramshackle blues numbers ‘Sloppy Drunk’ (Jimmy Rodgers) and careering off the road ‘Drunk Drivers Comin’ (Richard Bros.). If you need further convincing that you’re in need of some fine company to help lift the spirits and ease the blues, then the punchy sax intro of ‘Wine Wine Wine’ and compelling vocals of Calvin Boze (‘Looped’) should have your limbs shaking in no time. With ‘Cheap Old Wine And Whiskey’ being a combination of the vinyl series ‘Too Much Booze’ and ‘Bad Hangover’, there really is no other option than to take up this addictive habit of blues and rhythm and blues as there are no hangovers to be had here!


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Voo Doo Lou

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Flying out of the barn at some tempo begins ‘Chicken Little’ by Rayvon Darnell, and so begins the compilation album of various artists ‘Voo Doo Lou’ on Koko Mojo. The idea(s) behind the title given to this long player appears to refer to the variation of moods and rhythms of the tracks supplied as it flies high on numerous occasions as well as taking leftfield turns as depicted by The Emersons and their compelling rendition of ‘Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde’ for example. Such humour and brilliance extend to the likes of Jimmy Butler’s persuasive, ‘Trim Your Tree’ complete with jaunty rhythm, and later (take your pick from) Big Moose (‘Puppy House Blues’), Ben Hughes (‘Sack’) and Jimmy Shaw (‘Big Chief Hug-Um An’ Kiss Um’) to experience some genuine eccentricities. You see it’s all about the delivery of the songs when it comes to ‘Voo Doo Lou’ as this compilation provides a masterclass in how to engage the listener by providing genuine emotions with tales of the everyday, not to mention catchy rhythms. Look no further than Gene and Billy and the heat sapping ‘It’s Hot’ giving the impression of the sun’s heat blaring down on you, to the curious question at the centre of ‘Who’s That Under My Bed’ from Rich McQueen to realise that we’re in rhythm and blues very good hands.


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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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