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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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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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The Other Side Of Bakersfield, Vol. 2

Various Artists

Bear Family

The evolution of rockabilly and rockin’ sounds continues by way of Bakersfield with Bear Family’s second chapter titled, ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’. With in-depth liner notes and super rare photos regarding these particular artists of the 1950s and 60s and the record labels involved,  the usual care and attention from Bear Family is applied to the entire package as volume two of the Boppers and Rockers from Nashville West is on equal par with its predecessor. For example, the same quality and breadth of creativity is found throughout ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield Vol. 2’, but where this differs slightly is the evolving sound of the musicians involved, edging closer to a fuller-sounding rockabilly description, to cite one example, that is beefed up and tighter in its execution. Particular delights of this second instalment include the ever reliable Ferlin Husky with ‘I Feel Better All Over’; the ballad-esque ‘Teenage Tears’ from Cliff Crofford; the wonderful off-kilter delivery and in line with its narrative of Corky Jones’ (Buck Owens) ‘Rhythm and Booze’ and George Weston’s rockin’ ‘Hey Little Car Hop’. Special mention goes to the sublime ‘Can’t Go On’ with a vocal to melt the sternest of hearts that leaves one to ponder why the name Dallas Frazier was not exalted to greater heights despite achieving success as a songwriter for a host of artists. A superb second volume, ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’ is worthy of high praise indeed.


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The Other Side Of Bakersfield, Vol. 1

Various Artists

Bear Family

Nothing but a safe pair of hands, Bear Family Records bring sweet, pleasurable relief with a new two-part series that focuses on ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’. The first volume of Boppers and Rockers from Nashville West details a succession of artists from the 1950s and 60s from the city of Bakersfield eager to experiment with the wilder sound that was emerging at a quickening pace with rockabilly and later rock ‘n’ roll. With an abundance of independent record labels able to provide (temporary) homes for those deemed worthy enough, the more familiar names of Buck Owens (aka Corky Jones on one particular number), Tommy Collins, Merle Haggard et al are present, but also much sought after originals with the endearingly named Custer Bottoms, for example, with his ‘Stood Up Blues’ that possesses a wonderful natural quality mainly expressed through Custer’s ‘hick’ delivery  rendering the abject misery of the central figure via the opposite sex utterly convincing. Cliff Crofford’s prospects appear equally bleak with ‘There Ain’t Nothin’ Happenin To Me’ that sounds like it’s made up of a very primitive rock ‘n’ roll rhythm. Johnny Taylor certainly adopts a similar methodology with his more up-tempo version of the (still) primitive rockin’ beats by way of the superb ‘Mixed Up Rhythm & Blues’, only for Jimmy Thomason (‘Now Hear This’) and Glen Ayres – Red Simpson (‘Sweet Love’) to shake things up further with some rhythm and blues and then followed by a concoction of teen rock and boogie. The sheer breadth of styles is astounding not to mention the abundance of creativity – Joe Hall & The Corvettes ‘Bongo Beating Beatnik’ a prime example – that makes this first volume ‘The Other Side Of Bakersfield’ a must have item.


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Rockabilly Roads 4

Various Artists

Playground Music

Fourth instalment in the Rockabilly Roads series that sees no let-up in terms of quality control with a plethora of modern-day rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll artists touting their own creative writings rather than adding a fresh spin on an old cover. The ‘jungle’ theme given to this fourth Rockabilly Roads volume is more about the red-hot electricity coursing through more or less each and every track rather than anything specific coming out of the wilderness. First indication of such a scorching atmosphere comes by way of Mike Barbwire & The Blue Ocean Orchestra with their ‘El Sótano Calling (S.O.S ROCKN’ ROLL), which is an instrumental with a Latin flavour coupled with a stinging guitar, monstrous sax and surprising turn of events with a brief yet wondrous string section midway that sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the competition to follow. After such a magnificent start, Swedish rockers and regulars to the Rockabilly Roads series, John Lindberg Trio do not let the side down by way of their usual high standards of consistently good rock ‘n’ roll with knowing pop sensibilities that is ‘Hit Me’. Where John Lindberg Trio add a modern gloss to the rockin’ revival, Ruby Ann’s ‘You Gotta Pay’ and subsequent Honeyboy Slim & the Bad Habits ‘Screamin’ Mimi Jeanie’ really drum up a sense of nostalgia with authentic takes on a 50s sound; the former a mid-tempo setter that is commanded by Ms Ann’s compelling vocal, whereas the latter is a full-blooded rocker and reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis. It remains this very balancing act between replicating an inch perfect rockin’ 50s period sound, and one that stems from the same origins but with various additional elements providing a more up-to-date feel (20th Flight Rockers, The Caezars, Reverend Horton Heat), which is why this rockabilly series truly works.


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Desperate Rock N Roll Volume Three

Various Artists

Flame

It might be time for the delinquents gracing the front cover of ‘Desperate ‘Rock N Roll Volume Three’ to feel nothing but shame for their collective misdemeanours, but there is no sense of shame when it comes to the magnificent array of rock ‘n’ roll obscurities and near misses gracing the contents of this latest compilation on the Flame imprint. From the outset, the third instalment in the ‘Desperate R N R’ series reveals a series of winning songs, the equivalent in musical terms to a winning lottery ticket with more than a few bonus balls, that should appease even the harshest of critics. Evidence of such lofty praise is instantaneous with Baby Huey & the Baby Sitters ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ which accelerates at considerable speed on the back of splendid vocals and thrusting guitars that brings together rhythm & blues with more than a hint of garage rock. Such intensity is maintained with Steve Alaimo & the Red Coats’ ‘She’s My Baby’ only it’s more of a deep brooding number with Alaimo’s vocal sinking considerable depths and adding to the song’s forceful appeal. There are a few primitive numbers scattered throughout with Clyde Arnold & the Sharps ‘I’ve Got A Baby’ sounding as if put together on a real shoestring budget and a reminder of the still evolving rock ‘n’ roll genre whereas the Floyd Dakil Combo’s ‘Dance, Franny, Dance’ is more the complete package due to arriving later and clearly to its advantage, as it is a sheer delight with its recognisable mid-60s tone complete with handclaps. The country twang that accompanies Willie .B. and his ‘Bad Mouthin’ slows the tempo but equally remains infectious and a worthy inclusion, as are the two rockabilly numbers from Don Feger who, according to the enclosed booklet, remains something of an enigma due to a dearth of information. If you like frantic rock ‘n’ roll with more than its fair share of obscurities spanning from the 50s to the 60s, then ‘Desperate Rock N Roll Volume Three’ is a must have compilation.


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Jump into The Midnight Ball!

Dale Rocka and the Volcanoes

Rhythm Bomb

The mood of this first ever album release by Dale Rocka and the Volcanoes is definitely one of celebratory, as suggested by its title and visually explicit by the ultra-cool artwork gracing its exterior. At the heart of the album’s rockin’ contents, however, is some real cool cats who remain hell-bent on letting their hair down after a fifteen year stretch that has seen countless live performances and various recordings, but never as a four piece until now. So without further ado, ‘Jump into The Midnight Ball!’ is all you can do because its rockabilly rhythms are simply irresistible and will have you moving those limbs until the early hours, such is the relentless pace. The preparation for the festivities at hand starts appropriately with ‘The Midnight Ball’, which has a touch of Bill Haley & His Comets about it, and serves as the ideal ‘warm up’ for what’s to follow. Dale Rocka – real name Massimo Rocka who is responsible for the majority of the songwriting – and his explosive cohorts reveal their wares without any hesitation during standout track ‘Bad Blood’ with its gritty guitars sounding borderline garage rock and Dale’s vocal reminiscent of Darrel Higham on occasions. There is a real glint in the eye with the superbly titled ‘Mama Bring Back (My Blue Suede Shoes)’ that contains a subtle humour, despite being down in the deep end, and reveals the band’s creativity to a large extent, especially when it comes to failing to namedrop the song’s title at every opportunity, which is a refreshing addition. ‘Rag Mop’ is nimble on its feet with a frantic yet light(ish) sounding rhythm and skilful guitar that is brought to the fore. Taking the festivities down a notch, yet remaining consistently compelling with its grungy guitar sound and distortion in the vocal, is the whipping into shape demands of ‘That’s Why I Tell You’. Such advice is soon forgotten, however, once the inventiveness of ‘Remember Last Night’, with its amusing touch of giving the impression of an ‘extra voice’ trying desperately to recollect the morning after the night before, is played out to a brisk tempo and shuffling rhythm. Dale Rocka and the Volcanoes have just had one hell of a party with ‘Jump into The Midnight Ball!’, the good news however, is that this particular midnight ball is open and available to all, and it is one that will not let you down.



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