Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Record Review - Barrence Whitfield

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, October 22.

Barrence Whitfield & The Savages
Under The Savage Sky
Bloodshot Records

Coming out of Boston in the early ‘80s, Barrence Whitfield & The Savages immediately made a name for themselves as purveyors of hard-driving, punk-edged R&B and soul, no doubt providing inspiration for bands like The Bellrays and their ilk today. The band split after a couple of records, reuniting recently, picking up exactly where they left off.

Under The Savage Sky is a full-throttle rhythm & punk assault, Whitfield displaying the passion and power vocalists a third his age would struggle to muster. Tracks like Rock ‘n’ Roll Baby touch the closest to the original R&B form, all blowing brass and hi-octane beat, while Adjunct Street is all honey-sweetened (albeit mournful) soul. Elsewhere though, this is pure Savages, as brutal and free-flowing as ever. Whitfield howls and croons, guitarist Peter Greenburg shreds and burns, the record struts and poses as a result – powerful stuff from a band who are just as good now as they were in their early prime.

Samuel J. Fell

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Record Review - Jemma & The Clifton Hillbillies

Published in the Shortlist section of both The Sydney Morning Herald (Syd) and The Age (Melb), Friday October 16.

Jemma & The Clifton Hillbillies
Jemma & The Clifton Hillbillies

For a while now, Melbourne has been somewhat of an hotbed, the cramped and sticky-carpeted venues of the inner-north a breeding ground for a new take on this earthy, gritty style of the genre. Jemma Rowlands, her Clifton Hillbillies in tow, is a fine example of the talent emerging, as the band’s debut illustrates to a tee.

Beginning with the mournfully catchy April’s Fool, this eponymous release bleeds the realism, the truth, the honesty inherent to this style of music, enhanced by some of the finest instrumentation this side of Nashville courtesy of Sean McMahon (guitar), Ben Mastwyk (banjo), Cal Walker (bass) and Ben Franz (pedal steel), amongst a host of others, McMahon and Mastwyk also contributing to the songwriting. Town For Two and Song Itself keep things jaunty, while Fightin’ Mad and Killing Time are pure, slow old country (the latter with subtle accordion from Flora Smith). Meanwhile, Rowlands’ voice should be bottled and sold to thirsty travelers – all up, a masterful record.

Samuel J. Fell