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The Imperial Crowns
Borderline, 1st August 2005

Reviewed by Pete Feenstra

The Imperial Crowns hail from Los Angeles, California, a fact that vocalist Jimmie Wood was always happy to stress every third or fourth song. Having witnessed this mesmerising performance by the larger than life front man - who doubles on harp and guitar – with his excellent Imperial Crowns, there really is no other place they could have come from. Quite simply this gig was as good as it gets, with the Hollywood born Jimmie and his bunch of musically brilliant compatriots rocking their way through a spell binding set.

If this is the blues, it wasn’t the blues as we know it. The Imperial Crowns are certainly working within the blues idiom and with a line-up that relies heavily on burst of slide guitar and generous blues harp bursts from Wood, they will always come back to their blues roots. Wood himself also preaches the blues, but then he preaches on a range of subjects raging from his own colourful life to all things carnal and of course extracts from their "Hymn Book", debut album.

That said, the band’s UK debut show was more closely tied in with the recently released and aptly titled "Preachin The Blues", and a take on the blues closer to say Beefheart meets Iggy Pop than to any distant blues cousin such as Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Perhaps only the fondly remembered Red Devils could come close to the incredible energy levels of this powerhouse band. Along the way The Crowns worked up an awesome head of steam with a mix of Southern Californian funk on the hugely impressive "Lil Death" and the glorious sleaze filled "King Size Jones". Then there was also an occasional, almost poppy melodic outing such as "Simply Just A Dream" and of course a dollop of firebrand blues, as on the slide led "Preachin The Blues"

In Jimmie Wood the band have one of the most charismatic performers to hit these shores in years. He attacks the crowd from the opening number, and your eyes never leave his every moment. At the intro of a number he’d be extravagantly swaying a mike stand, while the next minute he would be crouched down teasing out a big tone from his harp. Half way through the set he dispensed with his shirt to reveal a huge Crown tattoo, and once he made the connection with the crowd there was never a moment’s let up. Such was the magnitude of his performance that you almost forgot the magnificent slide guitar playing of JJ Holiday and a cutting edge rhythm section that pushed every musical moment to its relentless conclusion.

And finally of course there are the songs. Unlike a hundred SoCal bar bands, The Imperial Crowns have a truck load of original songs full of colourful narratives, all brought to life by the original Hollywood kid Jimmie Wood. For make no mistake as Jimmy continually told his flock, " We are The Imperial Crowns and we’re pimping the blues." And on the evidence of this UK debut show they look set to convert many an unsuspecting music fan to their wonderful low down ways

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