Friday, 19 December 2014

Record Review - Old Gray Mule

Published in the December 2014 issue of Rolling Stone (Aust.)

Old Gray Mule
Have Mercy
Cash Munkey Records

The sixth cut from Texan duo Old Gray Mule sees these purveyors of boogie blues in career-best form, their use of the repetition which defines the style (best practiced by the likes of RL Burnside and T-Model Ford) creating a pulsing, surging foundation from which the album builds.

Guitarist CR Humphrey and drummer JJ Wilburn also display a willingness to deviate on Have Mercy, bringing in Zydeco legend Rockin’ Dopsie Jr, whose frenetic accordion on ‘Ass On Fire’ is a masterstroke. Australians Dom Turner and Chris Parkinson feature heavily too.

Throw in a fuzzed variation on Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ (‘Edge Of My Head’, replete with didgeridoo), and you’ve got an album which brings the blues to a new generation.

Samuel J. Fell

Friday, 12 December 2014

Record Review - Eric Bibb

Published in the December 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.

Eric Bibb
Blues People
ABC Music / Universal

The blues has been kind to Eric Bibb – fifty years, dozens of albums, worldwide acclaim; Bibb has the music running through his veins. With his latest studio record then, he’s given back, Blues People being a tribute to the original creators of the music, a homage to their struggles and triumphs.

Along with such luminaries as Taj Mahal, the Blind Boys of Alabama and Guy Davis, Bibb explores a variety of styles that tell these stories, and while the style change, song-to-song, sometimes grates, it’s when he gets back to basics – simple fingerpicked acoustic blues, his gentle yet strong voice flowing over the top – that he truly shines. Not his best cut, but still flashes of brilliance from this unsung hero of the blues.

Samuel J. Fell

Friday, 5 December 2014

Record Review - The Beautiful Girls

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, November 21.

The Beautiful Girls
Dancehall Days

Four years after their last effort, an album which seemed to herald a permanent end to a decade of touring, decent album sales and general sun-soaked musical frivolity, The Beautiful Girls return with a new cut. Unfortunately, it does little to reignite any fire which may have existed before.

Limp and restrained, Dancehall Days is directionless, a collection of tracks lacking in any real originality, instead ripping from a raft of other genres, a jarring hodge-podge of bits and pieces that neither knows what it is, nor where it’s going.

While a few of the tunes (‘Until My Kingdom Comes’, ‘Control’ and the title track) are happy little finger-snappers, they lack the energetic bounce TBG had in their day. Even if they didn’t, they’d be overwhelmed by the insipid, hollow dub and reggae beat that permeates the rest of the record, making for a disappointing effort from a group who should know, and can do, better.

Samuel J. Fell

Friday, 14 November 2014

Record Review - Bad Brad & The Fat Cats

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday November 14.

Bad Brad & The Fat Cats
Take A Walk With Me

Bad Brad & The Fat Cats hail from Austin, Texas, a trio who specialise in high-octane electric blues Рno quarter asked, none given Рa heady m̩lange of Chicago shuffles, 12-bar porch-burners and general sweaty party tunes, south US style.

Traditionally a three-piece (Brad Stivers on guitar and vocals, his brother Alec thumping tubs and Nic Clark on harmonica), their second cut (recorded live in the studio) sees them bring in a number of guests to bulk out their sound, most notably Dwight Carrier adding a touch of Zydeco courtesy of some nice accordion playing on ‘See My Way’, a move which breaks up the set nicely, as does Lionel Young’s tasteful slide guitar on ‘Other Side’.

Elsewhere, it’s blues guitar lover’s heaven, Bad Brad perhaps taking the spotlight a little more than he needs on a few tracks, but ultimately producing what is by no means anything new, but something that’ll back your next southern-styled BBQ and beer bash a treat.

Samuel J. Fell

Friday, 7 November 2014

Record Review - Cold War Kids

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday November 7.

Cold War Kids
Hold My Home
Create Control / Downtown

With their fifth cut since 2004, Southern Californian quartet Cold War Kids have crossed a sonic divide. Virtually gone (in an obvious, 12-bar sense) is the blues influence that permeated their earlier music, in its place a freewheeling, upbeat feeling, all handclaps and sing-a-long choruses, layered guitars and booming piano, swirling B3, a psychedelic pop gem that bumps and grinds along, waving cheekily at the blues it’s left behind (but still secretly loves and misses), barefoot and fancy free.

Opener ‘All This Could Be Yours’, driven by Matthew Schwartz’s pounding piano, draws a blueprint for the rest of the album – ‘Hot Coals’ builds to a shimmering crescendo; ‘Nights & Weekends’ is all psych-layered warmth; ‘Harold Bloom’ brings it back, sparse, a melding of REM and Pink Floyd. The riff-led ‘Hotel Anywhere’ is perhaps the bluesiest track on the record, a nod to where they’ve been, on an album which, as a whole, sees a band who will embrace change without a second thought, doing it well.

Samuel J. Fell

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Record Review - Lanie Lane

Published in the Shortlist section of The Age, Friday October 24.

Lanie Lane
Night Shade
Ivy League

So far away, stylistically, is Lanie Lane’s new cut from 2011 debut To The Horses, you’d not think this was the same artist. Gone is the clean-cut rockabilly blues, the feathery vocal, the endearing rootsy naivety. In its place is a soaring album, wreathed in shimmering guitar and lush, warm soundscapes, an ethereal pop jaunt fronted by someone whose voice is by turns, tough and soft, assured and perfectly placed.

With help from Belles Will Ring guitarist Aidan Roberts, amongst others, Lane here emerges as a true master of her craft. The songs pulsate with energy, melody at their core, each offering more to explore.

With Night Shade, Lane has crafted an album of intense poise and power, majestic and demurring all at once, a true gem.

Samuel J. Fell