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It’s A Man Down There Vol. 6

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Filling out the dancing shoes is the newest in the series with ‘It’s A Man Down There’. Set to a predominately shifting rhythm and blues tempo and where big band influences and sounds can be heard, not to mention rock ‘n’ roll. ‘It’s A Man Down There’ is certainly from the “Land of the Ravy-Gravy” as given by its press intro and voice Little Victor. There’s so much to be found between the grooves here that will fill the dancefloors whether it’s the rockin’ belter and Little Richard doppelganger in sound ‘Look Out’ supplied by Rockin’ Bradley, to major clue given by its title as to the source of its actual sound of Leon & The Hi Tones ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll In the Groove’. The back-to-back pairing of ‘I’m Gonna Pay You Back Baby’ and ‘No More’ from Bob Rayford and Johnny Fuller respectively ooze with class and speak of revenge, which is equally matched by the big band approach of ‘Bye Bye Bye’ from Doc Palmer. The halfway point of this particular volume in the series tips back and forth between more straight blues (Harvey Hill JR. ‘She Fool Me’) and mid-tempo rockers (‘Baby Shame’, ‘Satisfied With My Lovin’). The standout point and knockout blow of this entire set arrives via Jimmy Anthony and ‘Fore Day In The Morning’ with a vocal that could power the entirety of this album alone. With songs that suggest and certainly depict relationships turning sour, the dancefloor fillers making up this album will lift the gloom in no time and see ‘It’s A Man Down There’ not too down for too much longer.


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Work With It Vol. 11

Various Artists

Koko Mojo

Another edition in the blues and rhythm and blues series that finds numerous artists upping the tempo and adding more layers to the primitive foundations of the aforementioned genres. Such musical developments are noticeable from the very beginning of this latest volume as ‘Work With It’ communicates this progression via several tracks where the guitar is often frantic in sound and expression. In fact, the guitar appears central to this latest addition in this series where songs fly out of the traps at great speed via Cal Green’s excellent ‘Huffin’ & Puffin’ and Chuck Mann’s ‘Little Miss Muffet’. The freight train rhythm and hollering vocal that introduces ‘I’m Tired Of Beggin’ is an impressive coupling that forces the listener to down tools before changing track and opting for a more sophisticated sounding ‘Mary Jo’ created at the hands of Red Miller & Quartett. That’s not to suggest that everything blaring from the speakers of ‘Work With It’ is a slick and well-oiled set of songs because the raw and primitive (guitar) sounds can be heard whether sounding almost ramshackle one moment during the aforementioned ‘Little Miss Muffet’, to similar examples later on from Slim Green’s ‘Shake ‘Em Up and beaten and bruised emotions from aptly named Guitar Crusher and equally compelling ‘I’ve Got To Know’. It may be the guitar that is the focal point in the latest series ‘Work With It’, but it remains the entire package of characters and tales to the varied assortment of blues and rhythm and blues expression that really reigns supreme here.


Released Out now

 

Wine Is Fine

Miss Lily Moe

Rhythm Bomb

Hailing from Switzerland Miss Lily Moe has steadily built a name for herself with a strong and passionate vocal set to a rhythm and blues backdrop that has seen her perform at numerous music festivals in the US and Europe. With this being a rhythm and blues sound from the 40s and 50s, the sense of nostalgia is clear to the listener throughout the singer’s sophomore album ‘Wine Is Fine’. It’s the sense of times gone by, coupled with a genuine feeling of the majority of these songs happening in the here and now, which is largely down to the themes remaining the same i.e. the joys and woes associated with relationships that fill the narratives of these songs. Breathing life into these songs is Miss Lily Moe with a fine set of vocal deliveries that see her stamp her authority during opening song ‘Daddy You Can’t Come Back’ and then showing much resilience after one rejection too many via the lively rhythm of ‘Baby’s Gonna Rock ‘n’ Roll’, which is then repeated in similar style with ‘Mama’s Out To Have A Ball’. ‘Broken Heart’ ushers in a ballad and is delivered compellingly via Miss Lilly Moe’s vocal, one that is equally supplemented by the male backing vocals and making this a definite album highlight. Elsewhere, the focus is either to blow away the blues (‘Roll On’) or enjoy the genuine sense of occasion of a night out on the tiles (‘Rockin’ On Saturday Night’). Despite any downturns when it comes to finding the perfect recipe for love, ‘Wine Is Fine’ is an album strong in character where indecision never plays a part as the outcome of each and every song knows exactly what it wants. Such feelings are to be applauded, as are the fine musicians along with Miss Lily Moe who’ve created a heartfelt and authentic gem of an album. There’s no second album syndrome blues evident here.


Released 23 February

 

Factory Blues (Single)

Country Heroes

Safe & Sound Recordings

A genuine country sound straight outta Norway! Brushing down their country attire for a fresh outing are Norwegians, Country Heroes, and their brand new single ‘Factory Blues’. With the band having formed in 2014, and one full album (‘Southern Insecurity’) behind them, Country Heroes issue first single, ‘Factory Blues’, from their upcoming sophomore album ‘Honky Tonk Tears’. By focusing on the blue collar sector of workers, the factory theme reminds of a 70s era when such labour was in high demand and probably at its peak, especially in terms of output. In addition, country music pretty much dominated the (UK) airwaves during said period, and this is where the ‘Factory Blues’ of the Country Heroes is most reminiscent of, despite hailing from the southern plains of Norway. With a miniscule rock edge to the country guitars, ‘Factory Blues’ is a fairly detailed overview of a typical working week where banter can fly between workers, cigarettes and coffee are consumed and, of course, hard work being the main, and toughest part of all. But it remains the anticipation of the end of the working week where one is working to live rather than living to work as it’s all about hitting the (honky tonks) bars and going out dancing. All of these details are expertly handled by Country Heroes, who maintain a steady rhythm throughout, with wonderful narration from vocalist Jørund Vålandsmyr who is never overpowering yet manages to capture your attention with considerable ease. Lap up these ‘Factory Blues’ from 9 to 5 because there is much promise to come from this country band.


Released Out now

 

London Is Trouble (Single)

Sol Heilo

Propeller Recordings

London can be an overrated commodity, just as other cities around the world can provide the same or similar experiences. Such feelings are expressed by Sol Heilo and latest single ‘London Is Trouble’, which is a rather beautiful and intimate acoustic folk song, and one written after the realisation of many years of life on the road with main focus Katzenjammer that the early promise of rock ‘n’ roll was becoming something of a chore rather than to be celebrated. Closer attention to detail reveals a solo singer baring her soul and missing certain aspects of her life back home, the snow for example, and thus channelling her grievances through this latest single: “I remember I was in the bar and had just bought myself a new guitar – a 1961 Gibson LG-0 – almost to fill my soul with something. It’s about how gray [sic] and dull London can be when you have no joy in your heart, and the ever-fleeting glow of late nights and early mornings.” With ‘London Is Trouble’ being the third single to be lifted from last year’s album ‘Skinhorse Playground’, any joy that is left to be found can certainly be had via ‘London Is Trouble’ and the impressive manner in which this intimate tale is told to anyone willing to listen. Top marks all round.


Released Out now

 

The Long Harvest

Creek Road Eleven

Z-Trading

Without realising it at the time, this project had been a long time coming for lead singer and guitarist Toni Ruuska. What started in 2013 has since evolved into the five-piece band Creek Road Eleven and their debut album ‘The Long Harvest’. Despite the lengthy timeframe used in order to arrive at the stage where the band now find themselves, much attention to detail and a full and comprehensive search was conducted in order to recruit the right individuals to bring home, or more to the point create a genuine southern American country sound. Such attention to the finer details has certainly paid off as Creek Road Eleven deliver a ten-track album packed with rollin’ country rock tunes, and often with a blues edge that justifies their own description of “Southern-spiced country rock” yet makes it all the more remarkable considering their northern location! Closer inspection of ‘The Long Harvest’ reveals an album that is providing a sense of storytelling that affects the majority of us from every day tales concerning the boredom of work and those Monday mornings (‘Bad Monday’), to misfortunes in love and relationships as well. The latter aspect concerning relationships arrives during several numbers, but not without a touch of humour via the lyrics, and found during such loose workouts as the excellent ‘Under The Full Moon’ and equally good, yet jaunty in rhythm ‘Don’t Call Back’. But if it’s escape you’re looking for regarding the mundanities of life, then the “pick me up” greeting of bluesy country rock, ‘Long Straight Highway’ with its talk of long open highways and musically providing a real sense of any such freedoms, then Creek Road Eleven and their album ‘The Long Harvest’ are likely to be the perfect companions for any such journey right now.


Released Out now

 

One Beer Left

Dusty Dave & The Heart Attacks

Rhythm Bomb

Having released their debut single back in 2014, The Heart Attacks scramble their creative ideas together once more to deliver a full-length album by the name of ‘One Beer Left’. In order to get the job done however, a new vocalist was recruited to their ranks by the name of Dusty Dave who applies a rather distinctive touch when it comes to the vocal department. With The Heart Attacks comprising of Lucky Steve (guitar), Dynamite White (blues harp), Rockin’ Bende (drums) and Ray Black (bass), who also served as producer for the record, Dusty Dave is in fine company as all concerned produce a mixture of predominantly raw blues songs. Such descriptions of the band’s sound  are noticeable from the opening blast of harmonica that introduces ‘Candyman Boogie’, and then followed by the rattlin’ rockin’ blues of ‘Ride & Roll’ and solid pace of ‘Good Rockin’ Rhythm’. ‘One Beer Left’ is not all about foot to the floor blues belters though, because there are slower tempos such as ‘Tough Enough’, with Dusty Dave’s vocal sounding more modern and revealing a different side to his vocal capabilities, to the catchy rhythm and reflective vocal of ‘Come Inside’, before ending up at the bottom of the blues barrel, emotionally, with two dark and gritty compositions namely ‘Champion Of The Blues’ and the album’s title track. There is a genuine feel of the entire band ploughing their way through a live set considering the flowing nature of each and every song, which was achieved due to the band performing together in the same room and with the recording being tracked live (Listen to ‘Worried Mind’, for example, which really projects the sentiments of its title). They may only have ‘One Beer Left’, but judging by the passion and musicianship at the centre of this record, Dusty Dave & The Heart Attacks certainly give a good account of themselves via their current record.


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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!


Released Out now

 

Reservation Blues

B. B. & The Blues Shacks

Rhythm Bomb

Longstanding stalwarts of traditional rhythm and blues, B. B. & The Blues Shacks resurface for their umpteenth album in as many years with ‘Reservation Blues’. By applying their creative hands to a vintage blues sound and, in particular, Chicago Blues, not to mention paying reference to jump and swing influences as well, B. B. & The Blues Shacks line up fourteen new songs of their own making. Starting with the wailing harmonica of the title track, ‘Reservation Blues’, and ending with much Hammond organ via the mid-tempo ‘Why Can’t I Go Home’, the quintet show all their years of experience with detailed observations of life’s ups and downs accompanied by skilled musicianship. Any listener will find themselves up on their feet once the infectious rhythm of ‘Lay Some Shuffle Down’ works its way under the skin, before ‘Mad About You’ weaves an entirely different yet equally compelling spell of soulful vocals that will leave you in awe. Sadly, follow up songs ‘I Can’t Go On’ and too much Hammond for our liking ‘Angry Cat’, and not too dissimilar ‘Honeycomb’ pale in comparison. Fear not as ‘Reservation Blues’ finds its feet once more with the above mentioned Chicago Blues playing its part for ‘Year Of Strife’, and then giving way to more soulful vocals during ‘From Now On’. The tempo slows for the excellent ‘My Time Ain’t Long’ that is full of reflection and lets in the brass instruments. If you’re looking for an album with much depth in terms of its compositions where song narratives are of equal importance to the musical output, then you’ve come to the right blues shack where you will find a reservation under ‘Reservation Blues’.


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The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers

The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers

Safe & Sound Recordings

Receiving its first live outing via a release concert in Oslo (Norway), and issued to the general public late last week, was the eponymously titled debut album from The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers. With references to bands such as Mazzy Star and Cowboy Junkies being mentioned by this very music paper in relation to the band’s ‘My War’ single, the album, ‘The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers’ continues to follow in similar footsteps. Early indications suggest the complexity and beauty of the latter referenced Cowboy Junkies during opening song ‘Brand New’ that gives off an air of simplicity one instance, only to sound packed full of details the next where lead vocalist Kristine Marie Aasvang works miracles with the words by squeezing them through the narrowest of margins during its chorus, for example, and ably matched by the neighbouring guitar (Thomas Bergsten) and steady pattern of the drums (Alexander Lindbäck). There is a feeling of truths stripped bare, albeit in mind, during the tender and acoustic driven ‘Beautiful Blue’, where lyrics offer glimpses of a relationship that is on the verge of being gripped by anxiety and fear, from one person’s perspective that is, which is deeply touching and very beautiful in equal measures. If you’re expecting songs of an uplifting nature, then you’ve definitely got off at the wrong bus stop as these songs are often tales of broken relationships and lost souls. Such moments can be heard via ‘Whiskey Song’ that follows a certain country standard yet halfway through takes an unexpected U-turn and ends up a darkly twisted tale of revenge. It is this very act that sets The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers on their own path, and where former comparisons begin to fade due to the band heavily stamping their own personality over songs such as the compelling and gospel-tinged ‘Breaking Bad’, to the definite folk influence and marginal country rock of ‘How To Sing Goodnight’, before taking a similar trip with ‘My Only Friend Tonight’, and then ending on a raucous note via ‘Secret/Sacred’. A truly fine diversion of creativity where one can hear The Secret Sound of Dreamwalkers really coming into their own (It was in the name all along!), in addition to delivering a debut album that is extremely compelling, and deeply moving, and one that is far from keeping any secrets.


Released Out now

 

A Time To Dance And Sing (Single)

Ann-Kristin Dordal & Ottar "Big Hand" Johansen

Tyrirot Musikk

Ottar “Big Hand” Johansen is a familiar name at Famous Last Words (FLW) after recent solo album (‘Big Hand – 50 Years On The Road’) and double effort with fellow Norwegian country artist Arne Benoni  (‘Benoni & Big Hand’). This time out, Ottar Johansen enters the fray with a new (to our ears anyway) singing partner by the name of Ann-Kristin Dordal who has made something of an impact musically in her home town as well as overseas in countries such as Spain and Sweden. With the chosen single being a composition written by Jakup Zachariassen and Martin Joensen (The Faroe Islands) in collaboration with Bjørn “Southern” Nilsen (N), the pairing of Ann-Kristin Dordal with Ottar Johansen proves a winning combination. The reasons for this is down to the lovely lilting intro of piano, steel string and Dordal’s vocal that thankfully doesn’t exaggerate the “Americanisms” when it comes to her accent and therefore resulting in a sincere performance where her voice gives off a folk – country styling. With lyrics seemingly purporting to the hardships that life can bring and how easy it is to forget the pleasurable sides of life (‘A time to dance and sing again”), the pairing of Johansen and Dordal manage to smooth such woes, especially when their vocals combine with the country music support that is up there with the best this side of Nashville. ‘A Time To Dance And Sing’ makes for a fine combination between two Norwegian artists who should perhaps consider an extended project of the LP kind.


Released Out now

 

It’s Too Late Now

Chris Ruest & Gene Taylor

El Toro

We’re in blues territory with the latest album from Chris Ruest and Gene Taylor. With this album being mainly a combined effort with additional support coming from Brain Fahey on drums, the main pairing of Ruest and Taylor complement each other with twelve tracks incorporating a classic blues sound along with moments of boogie-woogie and American roots music. Such examples can be heard clearly via the piano fingers of acclaimed musician Gene Taylor during the appropriately named instrumental ‘Torpedo Boogie’ that really fires along at pace. Where this album benefits greatly is the variety in tempo where, for example, the more energetic zip of boogie-woogie is replaced elsewhere with a laidback blues approach and excellent narratives of ‘Keep Talking’, ‘Sad And Lonely Child’ and ‘Life’s Like Lightning’ with Texas blues’ guitarist Chris Taylor greatly impressing throughout. If you enjoy your blues steeped in tradition yet combined with other components of rock ‘n’ roll that occasionally suggest Ruest and Taylor are more than comfortable in the present (look to the roots rock of ‘I’m Down’ and bluesy rock of ‘I Tried’), then ‘It’s Too Late Now’ is definitely a ticket worth purchasing.



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