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CD Reviews - May 2008

The Experimental Tropic Blues Band - Hallelujah >>
The Black Keys - Attack and Release >>
Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs - You can't buy a gun when you're crying / Nobody will be there >>
KC McKanzie - Hammer & Nails >>
Mama Rosin - Tu As Perdu Tan Chemin >>
2007 Blues Music Awards DVD >>

The Experimental Tropic Blues Band - Hellelujah
(Jauneorange Records)
Review by Charlie Munn

The ETBB consist of three chaps: Boogie Snake, Dirty Wolf & Devil D'inferno, with eccentric parents from Liège Rock City - The city of sin in Belgium - so I'm informed, And since I've not been there - why shouldn't it be?

Indeed - it does sound like that. A stomping black beat with peeks and troffs similar to that of Gun Club. Although with more of a groove. A bit of Hooker in the licks but darker. It's ever steady as maraca's often make the pace. Hey - it's even hypnotic by the time you reach the murder ballad Gangrene Blues at the end of the second side. Yes. I got it on vinyl. Did it properly.

Kicking off the second side is a dubby electro shit kicker. and we're not bought back down again until the Dry Whisky track - but I'm not going to dissect each track.

Essentially, the most important thing about this album - since the above descriptions could apply to any punk blues band - is where it's from. It feels like the true identity of the band. There's no delusion about where it comes from. Their accents suit the music. There's no need to be from the southern states of America to make music like this - in fact they couldn't make music like this. It's too sexy for that - albeit in a boozy Belgian perv sort of a way. Which is something that can be rarely said about a punk blues band.

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Black Keys - Attack & Release (V2)
Review by G.P. Bennett

In an age where the image of pop/rockstars and their antics seems to be so much more important than anything else (Pete Doherty, Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears et al) You would be forgiven for thinking that maybe all hope is gone, and that we have seen the last of credibility, originality and soul in modern music. But fear not!! Hope is on the horizon in the form of the Black Keys.

This Ohio born duo have slowly been creeping up rock's roster since the release of their homemade debut album (The big come up) in 2002. Their understated approach and consistent output has culminated in this, their 5th album, Attack and Release. With which they are on the verge of being the new saviours of blues, rock and even popular music itself.

Originally planned as a project to be fronted by the late Ike Turner, the album sees the band hook up with a producer for the first time, in the guise of Gnarls Barkley knob twiddler Danger Mouse. As strange a collaboration as this appears on the surface, the results are gloriously good, taking the gut bucket blues of the BK’s to a level not reached before. Admittedly the production is a little “cleaner” than previous releases, but surely this is something that had to be developed for a band that has been guitar and drums for 6 years, even the die hard fans will demand some progression eventually, and here they definitely get that!!

The album begins with a brave opener in the form of country soul ballad All You Ever Wanted. An uusual song to begin with on such an eagerly awaited album , maybe it’s a statement of intent for future direction of the band, with it’s yearning vocals and subtle synth sounds in the background.

The classic BK’s riff returns on I Got Mine. With that English 70’s rock vibe, but without being too heavy. It’s simple catchy chorus will have you singing along in no time. We also see the first real influence of Dangermouse here with the drones, beeps and haunting harmonies of the bridge section. It definitely adds extra interest that maybe wasn’t there on earlier albums.

The first single, Strange Times is next. It’s reminds me of Queens of the Stone Age with it’s dark heavy riffing and “hey mickey” drum beat. It’s a great track but sounds slightly out of place here to me. It does have some nice spooky moog backing though.

4th track, Psychotic Girl is an instant classic. It’s banjo led intensity complete with ghostlike piano figures and gospel harmonies (a la Nick Cave’s Abattoir Blues). It’s the tale of a woman who mentally and physically abuses her men (the way it should be). Hopefully this is another sign of the future maturing sound of the Black keys. Lies is a modern take on a Zeppelin-esque rock ballad, but with more class. It’s powerful and pleading chorus is sung with the voice of a desperate man who has been cheated to his very core. It also has the first appearance of Tom Waits cohort Marc Ribot, with his tortured aching guitar solo.

Ribot’s presence carries on into the weeping simplicity of Remember When (side A) which has a country edge the Stones would have been proud of. The track is coupled with Remember When (side B) which acts as it’s antidote, displaying a Stooges/ MC5 garage rock prowl. It has all the hallmarks of a second single as it’s two minutes of straight to the point catchiness.

Same Old Thing is probably the weakest song , but it still has it’s merits, with an original flute line and some chanting voodoo backing vocals. However it does have a familiarity to it that makes me feel it’s just a couple of songs from earlier albums welded together. This is probably why it’s situated right before the glorious stand out track So He Won’t Break. The intro is possibly a parody or homage (depending on your viewpoint) to “stairway”, but don’t be put off, as it’ leaps into a soul reaching punchiness intensified by Auberchs scarily real vocals. This is such a special song, it’s Rock , Gospel, Soul, Pop and everything in between, with it’s clever stops instant hooks and subtle guitar parts (and melodic solo from the unique Ribot) There is even a touch of the 80’s in there somewhere (the good bits). I’d be amazed if this isn’t the song of the decade. Bold words I know, but this is a 4 minute epic.

Oceans and Streams showcases Patrick Carneys unique approach to percussion, pounding rhythms that slip into an alternate feel without warning but to great effect. The album is rounded off nicely by the relaxing watery feel of Things Aren’t Like They Used To Be, which reminds me strangely of Jeff Buckley. Lyrically it suggests the woes of a touring musician, finding it hard to return home to waiting arms. It feels like a very sombre coda which hopefully is just about taking stock, rather than stopping the train, because on this evidence, the Black Keys have the ability(and right) to put their feet firmly on the rock n roll map and possibly become legends in their own right.

Album of the year already?

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Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs - You Can't Buy a Gun When You're Crying / Nobody Will Be There (Damaged Goods Records)
Review by Charlie Munn

Holly Golightly And The Brokeoffs
You Can't Buy A Gun When You're Crying/Nobody Will Be There
'07 Damaged Goods Records

OOOOOOOOOOh, here's some treats for you.
This is the new project from the first lady of British blues. Bitterer and sweeter than ever before. In a stroke of inspiration she's sacked the band and moved on to what many - pity the fools.* - might call a step backwards and hired a one man band. Lawyer Dave. AKA The Brokeoffs.

There's no crude 'going back to her roots' rubbish on either of these albums. Certainly no compromise. The first album - the one about crying and guns - was recorded in the Kent countryside - England, it's warm and intimate. With a bit of a snarl. The other one - Nobody Will Be There - is rawer. And recorded somewhere in one of the southern states of America. It's louder and gruffer. On this one Holly shifts over a bit and the Lawyer gets a chance to do more of his thing. They are a duo and his voice works in contrast to Holly's. Gravely deep & 'mercan. In doing so there's a satisfying opportunity for late night solo whisky drinking. That was a good night.

The second album has alot of the same tracks as the first. The same theme's but with the clear difference of having done a tour together. Most notably is what happened to the song Devil Do. By the end of YCBAGWYC there's a hint of what it would become in the version Devil Don't. A few thousand miles down the road it's become a blood chilling stonker. I would guess a high light of a live set. The same is true for the development of the cover Whoopie Ti Yi Yo. Not a blood chilling dance number by any stretch of the imagination. More of a stop whatever you're doing blood freezer. Stop whatever you're doing and listen to the first gal of British blues at the height of her powers. Singing about dogs. There should be more songs about dogs.

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Recapturing The Banjo - Otis Taylor with Guy Davis, Corey Harris, Alvin Youngblood Heart, Keb Mo and Don Vappi (Damaged Goods Records)
Review by David Atkinson

Descended from the gourd instruments of western africa, the banjo was refined on American soil and hugely popular with southern blacks. It was only in the 1920-30s with the increased availabilty of decent-quality guitars that the banjo fell out of favour. The instrument was appropriated by southern whites and with a few design changes became best known as a country and bluegrass instrument. The image of that inbred kid from Deliverance is probably cemented in a lot of people's mind as well. Banjos = Danger.

But here we have a murderers row of African American blues musicians, and, as the title suggests, Otis Taylor's Recapturing The Banjo is an effort to reassert the black roots of the instrument. And a fine job they do too. If you have records by any of these guys already then you'll no what to expect - high standards and great music.

The whole album bears Taylor's stamp and his daughter Cassie provides hefty bass guitar and sweet backing vocals on many tracks. Ran So Hard The Sun Went Down and Absinthe get things off to a fantastic start and remind us we are deep in Otis Country. Ever the idiosyncratic bluesman, Otis Taylor again gets the tone just right. He contributes seven originals to the album's fourteen tracks and it keeps things excellent and interesting throughout.

Alvin Hart's banjoing has been a solid feature of his two acoustic albums to date and only really overshadowed by his awesomeness elsewhere. He recycles the traditional song Deep Blue Sea from his Down In The Alley album but expands the arrangemet with some fine percussion. Then there is the wicked original Prophet's Mission with a bassline remeniscant of tracks from Sly & The Family Stone - it's somewhere between his rocking persona and his trad blues stuff and is suberb. It should keep fans going until a new album appears.

Don Vappie is something of go-to-guy for the jazzy tenor-styles of early jazz. His contributions on Gus Cannon's famous Walk Right In (with Corey Harris on Vocals) and the traditional Les Ognons have that unmistakeable struttin' feeling. They are a nice alternative to the more trance-inducing tunes.

I'd always figured Keb Mo as a purveyor of 'blues lite' and to me he seemed a bit incongruous with the rest of the line up. Nevertheless his performances - Live Your Life especially - are a pleasure. As Mary Poppins said, 'a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down'.

On the downside, Hey Joe at first seemed like a rather uninspired choice but after a few listens it does fit in thematically at least. Harts and Taylor share the vocals but the overdriven guitar dominates, which only reinforces how cool this album is for not having much of it on it.

All of the musicians here have built their careers on revisionism and it means that a lot of the work Recapturing The Banjo seems intended to do has in fact already been done. OK, you don't see banjos cropping up at jams and the like so maybe there is a fair way to go, but this is proof that we're at least going in the right direction. Highly reccomended.

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K.C. McKanzie - Hammer & Nails (T3 Records)
Review by Charlie Munn

After 20 minutes of thinking of something to write about this album, my girlfriend said "Oh - I like this... It's the kind of music you can just have playing in the background... She sounds a bit like Gillian Welsh." I passed her the sleeve.

"Oh - she's quite pretty - plump lips"

"She's German, I think," I said.

"I like it because you can ignore it" she replied.

This is what KC lists as her influences on her myspace page:
Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell, Gillian Welch, P.J. Harvey, Tori Amos, Bjork, Kate Bush, Ani Difranco, Townes van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Tom Waits, The Beatles, Bert Jansch, Dave van Ronk, Janis Ian, Jim Croce, The Band, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Leonard Cohen, Geoff Farina, Tim Buckley, Emmylou Harris, 3rd Tyme Out, The Carter Family...

One of KC's many friends left a comment that read simply "Lovely."
So I took a massive dose of mogadon and felt happy with my lot in life.

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Mama Rosin - Tu As Perdu Ton Chermin (Voodoo Rhythm Records)
Review by Charlie Munn

This is a recent release on Voodoo Rhythm records. I know this because it's got the year on it. Aside from that I know very little. The band come from Louisianna and Switzerland, and I know that from the the notes that came with it. And that they've played some accordian festivals.

There's also a bit explaining where Zydeco/Cajun music come's from (incase you didn't know: some french people went over to Canada a couple of hundred years ago and they wern't let in and ended up in Lousianna. And the name from where they were coming from/going to some how rhymes with Cajun ... you know.)

All the songs are in french, too - apart from one about shoes and dancing. All of which makes me feel ignorant about not being able to speak french. But, again - none of this matters - so you didn't need to read this bit.

Anyway. It's brilliant - and not at all alien. It's inviting and up lifting. Perhaps because the guitar is a electric and blues/rock n' roll like. Or how the driums are loud and cunchy or how some tracks have got some special effects - which isn't a problem for the genre adopting nature of Zydeco. Imagine cooking breakfast on new years day morning with screaming kids running around and the sun shining. Or a very jolly car boots sale <did you know there's a Zydecco club near Baton Rouge that kicks off at 9 on a saturday morning and goes right the way through?>. Or a very jolly car boots sale.

As a blues DJ I've found that, in my limited Zydeco collection, it's a blinder on the dance floor. I'm looking forward to playing this out it's as good as anything I've got. It's a massively satisfying album that I know very little about. Except I've got it on repeat. If you like being happy and don't ask questions this is for you.

Maggie's Virdict: 'Great.'

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2007 Blues Music Awards DVD - The Blues Foundation
Review by Billy Hutchinson

This is obviously a promotional vehicle for the Blues Music Awards, and a shop window into what the Blues Foundation in Memphis is about. In case you are not up to date this is the renamed W.C. Handy awards, which had a revamp not only in changing its name, but changes in procedures and a much needed overhaul.

The picture quality is very fine with only the occasional erratic frame jumping and camera shudder. It was the sound for me that was lacking as it lacked dynamics, and whether or not it was on my promo copy alone, but Slick Ballinger’s performance was totally out of sync. This is an American production that is based heavily on sponsorship, so remember that when all the name dropping comes up. Thankfully the whole proceedings did not continue as the start in that it was too show biz awards like at the beginning. Not all the considerable number of acts of the awards or the presentations are featured.

Well thought out was Gus Cannon’s, “Walk Right In” as he was a mainstay of Beale Street in Memphis as well as inviting you into the production. Having said that these guys have their own styles, were never meant to be a band, and connect and disconnect as they play. Mary Lockwood received her late husband’s award for, “Best Traditional Artist of the Year” with dignity and was given much deserved respect. Another award straight after was given to David Honeyboy Edwards FOR “Acoustic Artist of the Year”, which made you wonder if these were all going to be given in the case out of their age, and overall contribution. Rory Block’s performance was both passionate and proficient, but her choice of near bondage clothing was maybe 15 years too late for her. Watermelon Slim and the Workers instilled stage presence along with honest feel for the music they love. Leggy Marcia Ball took the piano award with a nice speech, in a dress she looked as though she might have slept in. Marcia backed Irma Thomas who looked as beautiful as she sounded, and gave a moving speech when she received, “Best Soul/Blues album”.

Dion I had to shake my head on, and no doubt hundreds of Blues musicians who are far more talented yet have not his profile via the mainstream. Bobby Rush though he looked tired in the eye, and not as sprightly he once was put on a real show. Bobby didn’t just get a dig in that it was long time coming in him attaining an award, but also gave encouragement to the young musicians to carry the flame. Guitar Shorty showed he can still keep his Blues feisty. John Mayall looked like an old maths teacher and ill at ease giving one of Charlie Musslewhite’s awards who always comes over as a real nice guy. Many other awards were handed out then born again Christian country boy Slick Ballinger took his Blues Award before his career headed almost totally sacred. We get a taste of one of Mark Hummel’s Blues Harmonica Blowout’s” though a restrained affair that cut just before Kim Wilson was to take his solo. Bruce Iglauer made a plea for donations to the musicians “Heart Fund”, Little Ed and the Blues Imperials followed with his slide over a driving beat. Tab Benoit gave a passionate speech and guitar performance aided by the raunchy Janiva Magness. Tommy Castro headed the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Tour band with his trademark rockin’ soul, with particularly on fire Ronnie Baker Brooks. That ended the main feature with a crescendo, but there is a bonus section with Tab Benoit and Janiva Magness doing some tasty zydeco, and Guy Davis in Sonny Terry-esque setting, to heritage type story telling. Finally a slideshow with the roster of nominees printed out on voting cards with the winners marked with an X in each section. This is a modern day Festival of the Blues, a helluva lot of acts, and the first time coverage of the event on DVD.

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