Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tear It All Up - The Alan Nimmo Interview

Thursday afternoon, and at the appointed time I give Alan Nimmo a ring.  It’s just one interview for me to do, but for him it’s inevitably the umpteenth of the week as part of the promotional campaign for the upcoming release of King King’s new album Exile & Grace.
So as an opening gambit I ask him what the question is he’s primed for me to ask, because he’s heard it so often already.  He doesn’t answer the question, but it evidently resonates, because he immediately laughs.
“I’m at the stage,” he responds, “where I’m about to put together a whole bunch of answers, and say ‘Here you are everyone, and here’s the questions.’”
Joking apart though, one of the recurring topics will inevitably have been about the vocal problems that unfortunately caused King King to postpone their UK tour in support of Exile & Grace while he took a three month lay-off.  It’s a situation that I guess isn’t just a worry for him personally, but must make him feel frustrated for the rest of the band, when together they’ve been making big strides in the last year or so.
“Yeah, of course,” he says.  “I mean obviously aside from the personal side for me, which
Alan Nimmo beardless in Breda - February 2017
can be very worrying, when you’re thinking “Hang on a minute, that’s a couple of time things things have gone wrong now.”  At the end of the day I just didn’t let it recover properly, and we went back to work and we just did so much, trying to fit in the rescheduled stuff with the current stuff, doing the album at the same time, all that.  It just got to the point where, you know, if I get ill or anything like that it just seems to be a wee bit worse.”
“So,” he sighs, “I kinda learned the hard way a little bit, that I’ve got to take a lot more precautions now in terms of my health, and looking after myself.  So we thought well, let’s be cautious, and let’s take everything out for a while, and just concentrate solely on getting properly recovered, so that this doesn’t happen again.  I’m doing four or five hours a day of this stuff [ie interviews], which is not ideal at this stage of recovery when I’m under strict orders not to be talking too much.  But the work still needs done, and I’ve tried my best to convert a lot of these interviews to e-mail.  But there’s ways around it, and I just want to get back to normal, get properly recovered, doing work with a vocal coach, and getting the strength built back up in the voice again, and getting that ‘memory trained’.  So all we can do is do what we can, and hopefully everything’s all cool in the end.”
The fitness kick
Judging by some of his Facebook posts, he’s also been hitting the gym a bit, and getting outdoors for some long walks.  Is that just by way of recreation away from the road, I wonder, or also part of his recovery plan?
“It’s part of the recovery as well,” he confirms.  “You know, one of the things is you don’t want to be carrying too much weight when you’re trying to do this for a living, so all of it plays its part I suppose.  Plus, it’s just better for my health, so I thought let’s make it part of the whole recovery programme while I’m off.
“There’s three things I’m doing while I’ve got this time off,” he says by way of elaboration, “and that’s basically it, that’s all I’m concentrating on.  One, is getting my voice and my vocal chords back into good shape.  The second is a very strict health and fitness regime.  And the other is I’m using the time to just do a bit more writing, writing more songs for, indeed, album number 5 when it comes.  So I might as well get ahead of the game with these things, and keep myself occupied, and out of mischief!”
The opportunity to sit back and do some writing could be seen as a bit of a blessing, I suggest, given that he’s said Exile & Grace was the first album for which much of the songwriting had to be done on the road because the band had been so busy.
“Yeah.  The thing is I’m already through the first month though, so the time passes quickly.  So before you know it, we’ll be back on the road anyway.  To think about ‘oh, we’ve got loads of time off’ – you don’t really.  The time flies by!”
King King getting down . . .
No danger of him sitting in the house contemplating his bad luck then?
“Goodness no - if I run out of things to do I’m sure the wife’ll have me out doing things in the garden!”
Returning to the subject of his fitness regime, I noted that he had recently shared a personal gym playlist via Spotify.  Most of the entries were the kind of rock and blues fare people might expect from him.  But the list also included outlaw-style country artist Chris Stapleton, and I recalled that three out of the four King King members had picked his album Traveller as their favourite of the year back in 2015.  So what was it about Stapleton’s music that appealed to him?
“Do you know what?” he reflects, “There’s a quality to his songwriting which was refreshing, and then when you hear a guy sing the way he does, you think wow – what a tremendous voice.  I think it’s an added freshness to the music scene that’s been missing – another bit of genuine, passionate, honest music coming out at us – regardless of the style.  You know, when you listen to these kinds of people, it’s like ‘I can tell that guy means it,’ and it’s just wonderful to hear.”
No routines
As a non-musician, I’m always intrigued about the genesis of the material.  Does a bit of doodling or jamming suddenly conjure up a Eureka moment?  I recalled talking with Alan’s brother Stevie about this a few months back, and he said that for him it was the other way round – if something doesn’t grab him right away then he bins it.  So how does it tend to work for Alan?  Turns out there’s no magic formula, but a mixture of spontaneous moments and professional graft.
“Well, quite a lot of songs come out of absolutely nothing.  You know, you’re sitting there
. . . and tearing it up

with a guitar in your lap, and you’re having a chat and a cup of coffee, or you’re doing something else – you could be sitting watching TV, or in the studio recording another song and somebody’s sat at a desk doing something, and you’ve got a couple of minutes sitting waiting before you get started again, and you end up noodling around, and riffs and ideas are born out of that.
“But I don’t stick to any sort of process or routine for song writing, it’s just whatever comes first comes first, and I build around that.  I can have a chord riff, I can have a melody, I can have one line of a lyric – anything.  Whatever comes first, I’ll build around it.  If it’s for example a lyric, I’ll think about why it came to mind – why did those words come to mind?  And it’ll remind me, or it’ll make me realise what I want to talk about in that particular song.  And then the content of that song will determine maybe what style I want to write it in, whether be a slow kinda ballad, or a fast paced rock thing, or something quirky, depending on how it goes.  But as I say, no formula – it just comes when it comes.  And definitely I agree with Steven, an idea’s got to grab a hold of you before you’ll pursue it.  If something’s a load of nonsense it’s not something you’ll even think about, you’ll just dismiss it.  If it’s not something where you think ‘there’s something in that’, then you’ll crack on.”
Songs can also take time to mature, he adds, or to fit into the right album.
“One of the crowd favourites nowadays from Reaching For The Light is ‘You Stopped The Rain’, and it was written when we were recording Standing In The Shadows.  But it didn’t feel right to go on that album, it felt right to go on Reaching For The Light.  And equally, the bulk of ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’’ was done when we recorded Reaching For The Light, and it didn’t go on that album – it wasn’t right yet, so it was right for this album.  And equally, along the way, doing this album, there’s been songs that were either dismissed completely or there’s songs that will go onto the next album.”
Practice and passion
The guitar intro to the aforesaid ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’’ is the first thing anyone has heard of the new album, and it’s a slightly unusual, prickly effect.  So how did he achieve that?
“It was done with a great deal of practice!” he says, laughing.  “What I tend to do with it in a live situation is I’ll literally pick every note, pick every part of it using a wah-wah pedal.  But on the album I wanted it to be a bit more even than that.  Because if your foot moves when you’re balancing on one foot with a wah-wah pedal then the note changes immensely.  So what we did was we used a delay, and I picked it, then I had it repeat, come back, and I picked it again.  So I got the evenness over it, which was good.”
Quite a lot of work involved for just a few bars then . . .
“Oh yeah, absolutely.  You know, like anything, if you want something to be quality, and you want a quality album, then you don’t get it by not doing the work.  So put the graft in, and hopefully it pays off.”
It strikes me there’s an underlying mood of tension to some of Exile & Grace.  Songs like ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’’ and ‘Long Time Running’ may be exuberant, but several songs have taut riffs and quite dark, anxious lyrics.  ‘Betrayed Me’ is a case in point – it may be a relationship song, but it’s a brooding one.  So did it have any particular inspiration?
“Ach, you know, everything’s written from life experience,” says Nimmo, “whether it’s something current, or if you’ve not got much to say in terms of what’s happening right now in your life you can dig into the past as well.  And you know, we’ve all been through certain things in life, and certain relationship ups and downs, and tragedies, and this, that and the next thing.  But you can take that, and it doesn’t have to be an exact description of what went on, but you can take various things from different parts of your life and piece them together, ‘cause at some point you’ve felt that way.  So it’s no’ like it’s faked, it’s still honest and there’s passion there.  I just tend to try and draw from life experience, and write about it, because I think it’s the best thing that can come across to an audience listening to it, if they believe you mean it.”
So rather than any kind of specific narrative, it’s a mood and a feeling he’s trying to convey?
“Yeah, at the end of the day, what a songwriter needs to do is,” he ponders for a moment. “I can be thinking about something very specific, but as a writer you have to find a way to make that universal, so that people understand and relate to it from their own life experience.  It may not be exactly the same thing that you might be talking about, but you can make it so that they think ‘Yeah, I get that, something similar happened to me, I can relate to that.’”
"Gonna get funky!"
Four Symbols
The album has a very elegant cover illustration produced by artist Chris Robinson, and I’m intrigued by the four symbols that appear in the corners – a flower, a bee, a globe and an eye.  Is there a story behind them?
“These are all spiritual signs, I suppose, of hope,” says Nimmo.  “Hope, peace, love, all that kind of thing.  And you’ll notice the pattern going round it, is the feathers of a thunderbird [a Native American image akin to the phoenix in European culture], a symbol of hope and peace.  And if you listen to the lyrics of some of the songs, then I suppose you could say the main theme of the album is a definite feeling of unease about the state of the planet, and the state of the world, and all the conflict that’s going on.  People’s gluttony and greed are getting the better of us, and things seem to be kind of falling apart a little bit, with various acts of terrorism and things like that.  In no way am I interested in chatting about that in a political sense, that’s not where I’m coming from with this.  It’s purely from a human side of things – I’m talking about, where is the compassion for the world as a human race?  And so these things all came together in a sense of – I just wanted to be hopeful for the world, rather than be negative.  It’s easy to be negative when you’re writing songs, it’s easy to sing about everything that’s disastrous, and there’s never a happy ending, but it’s about being hopeful for the future.
“The title is delving into a little bit of that as well,” he continues.  “Plus it’s a sideways reflection of looking at the band as well, in terms of our own struggle and our own hard work, and plight.”  The title comes, in fact, from a couple of lines in the song ‘Tear It All Up’, recounting the band’s experience supporting Thunder in big venues like Wembley. “You know, feeling a little bit exiled from the mainstream, and from the music world, and trying to fight our way in, to the graciousness of being humbled and content with what we’re achieving.”
And appreciated, I suggest.
“Yeah, of course, yeah,” he agrees.  “But you can reflect that against the rest of the world and what I’m talking about in some of those lyrics, and say if you can find a bit of peace and a bit of contentment with what you have in life, make the best of what we’ve got, let’s not be greedy, let’s not be selfish.  Let’s make a decent world for ourselves, for everyone.”
Finding your feet in the shadows
Digging into the past a bit, I mention reading an interview where Nimmo said that after Standing In The Shadows he thought they needed to toughen things up a bit, because they’d "kind of nailed the smouldering soulful thing".  He laughs in response, and I explain that I understand the sentiment, because if a band doesn’t evolve it’ll stagnate.  Nevertheless, I say, it’s an extraordinary album.  Unusually, about half the songs are slow to
Alan Nimmo does his best to smoulder
mid-tempo, and the music and lyrics seem to me to come together to create something really expressive, emotionally.  For Nimmo though, the outcome wasn’t purposeful in any way, but part of his development as a songwriter.
“With Standing In The Shadows, we were – I especially, was still trying to find my feet in terms of songwriting, and just gaining more experience from the album before.  Like you try and do for the next album, and the next album, you’re just trying to hone your songwriting skill, and you’re trying to relax more.  With the more experience you get in songwriting, the more relaxed you become, the influences that you have, and had as a kid listening to music, you find bubbling to the surface. The kind of smouldering, ballad-y type things, that’s the kind of music I love.  Everyone knows I’m a huge Thunder fan, but Thunder are so well liked for their ballads, as well as the energetic rock show in a live sense.  Dare I say it, they are best liked for those rock ballads, the slower ones.”
Thunder weren’t afraid to tell serious stories either, I suggest, thinking of the likes of ‘Till The River Runs Dry’, which related a tale of domestic abuse.
“Yeah of course,” Nimmo agrees.  “Because there’s a great lyrical content, that gets the platform to be showcased because of the style of music that’s being played as well, and you hear that, and there’s an emotional content because of how you can make it sound, as well as the lyrical content that you’re able to put across, and it all pieces together.  For us that’s just something that comes as a natural thing – you can’t fake that, you can’t process that, because it’ll never come across as true, it’ll never be real unless it is real.”
Tearing it all up – The Red Devils
Most King King fans probably know by now that the band named after a 1992 live album called King King, recorded by an LA outfit called The Red Devils and featuring Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Mr Highway Man’, which the KK boys also covered on Take My Hand.  The Red Devils’ album was re-released a couple of years ago, and I mention seeing that they’d been touring in Europe earlier this year, with a Dutch guy called Big Pete taking the place of late singer and harp player Lester Butler.  So I wondered what it was about the Red Devils that resonated with Nimmo.
The Red Devils in black and white
“Do you know what,” he says, “it was kind of like where King King are at the moment.  King King aren’t reinventing the wheel here, we’re playing a classic style of music with a freshness.  And I think that, in 1992, when I discovered The Red Devils, that’s how I felt about that band.  They were playing a classic style of blues music, straight up blues, nothing overly fancy.  But they were doing it with a freshness that was absolutely necessary at the time. They kinda just waltzed in, and just blew the whole of Europe away – and then disappeared.  Because unfortunately the singer” - the aforementioned Lester Butler - “had died, and it was no more.  That guy was the front man in that band and it was very difficult to replace him.  And I think the reason they get away with it now – Pete’s a great guy, and he’s great at his job – but I think it had to be twenty odd years later before they could do that.  I think they needed the gap, to come back, and for the nostalgia as well, for it to work.”
Having listened to the Red Devils album, I say I wouldn’t want to call them raw, but they certainly grab it by the scruff of the neck. 
“Yeah!” he bursts in, scarcely letting me finish the sentence as he warms to the subject.  “It was raw though, that was what was great about it!  It was raw, it was energetic – they managed to evolve every song, every night.  They managed to do it in a way that you would hear ‘Automatic’ one night,” he says, referring to the opening track on King King, “and if you heard it another night it would take another path, but still have the familiarity of being that song.”
He must have seen them live a few times then, I say – and by now he’s really off and running, words tumbling out as he recalls the experience.
“Aw, they were fantastic man!  I remember watching them in King Tut’s man, and you can imagine in King Tut’s,” he says, referring to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, a basement club in Glasgow, “a tiny venue with a band showing up and this guy was completely off his head, shouting through this bullet mic, and then this band– the way they sparked up playing something and then the way they managed to find that raw energy, to make it go where they needed to make it go for themselves, as well as the audience.  And it was because of that, they did it for themselves, that we went with them as an audience – oh man, it’s just euphoric, it was tremendous.   And there’s never really been a blues band like that since.  And of course, with it just being the one album there, it just became this cult, iconic, underground thing that came and went – they didn’t have a chance to spoil it by bringing out a bunch of ordinary albums.”
And then it’s time for Alan Nimmo to go off and lubricate his throat with a cup of tea.  But that burst of passion as he talked about The Red Devils is telling.  “It was because of that, they did it for themselves, that we went with them as an audience – oh man, it’s just euphoric, it was tremendous.”  That sounds to me very like the kind of connection Nimmo’s own band have generated with their fans.  And it’s that passion that drives all the hard work, and ensures that with Exile & Grace King King are about to demonstrate again that they aren’t making a bunch of ordinary albums either.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Black Country Communion - BCCIV

“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him,” said Mark Anthony, according to ol’ Bill Shakespeare.  Well, I’m not here to bury Black Country Communion, but I do question the torrent of rave reviews BCCIV has been getting.
Cards on the table, I’m in that weird minority who may have some doubts about Joe Bonamassa, but still think he does some good stuff. More to the point, I’ve been resistant to the charms of Glenn Hughes and his much vaunted voice since way back when, and last year’s Resonate album did absolutely nothing to change my mind.
Hughes’ vocals represent one of my key reservations about the album. He has a good voice when he’s in his middle register and not pushing the envelope, but for an avowed fan of Stevie Wonder he can indulge in some godawful warbling when he lets rip.  ‘The Crow’ is a case in point, with Hughes going out to lunch over a wall of sound centred on a stuttering riff, detracting from a good bass showcase that leads into a swelling organ solo and a brief but high voltage offering from Bonamassa.  All in all it could add up to something impressive – if only Glenn Hughes would cool his damn jets.  And by the same token his diction is increasingly bad on ‘The Cove’, swallowing words in all too typical fashion, though the music, along with those phrases that do emerge – “alone in the silence”, “out on the ledge”, “in the darkness” etc – are enough to evoke a dramatic atmosphere.
Glenn Hughes opens his gob.  Joe Bonamassa closes his.
Photo by Christie Goodwin
The tendency for good quality material to be compromised by a kitchen sink approach is the other key issue.  Opener ‘Collide’ is a harbinger of things to come, with a lurching Zep-like riff and powder keg drums from Jason Bonham, while Hughes delivers a typically high-pitched vocal over rolling guitar lines from Bonamassa.  On the whole though, the bombast is just held in check.  The following ‘Over My Head’ shows more restraint, and is all the better for it.  Hughes is calmer vocally, mostly, and adds a nice falsetto touch to the chorus.  Bonham’s bass drum still pounds like a sledgehammer, but it’s rhythmically more interesting, and there’s a nice melodic guitar line in the middle.  But if ‘Sway’ has some subtle keyboard flourishes, and Hughes largely conquers his OTT tendencies, it also labours under a juddering riff and crash-bang-wallop drums that feel like driving over a cattle grid with no suspension.  ‘Awake’ makes a better fist of a twitching guitar lick and drum pattern, with a steady vocal melody on the verse, until they get into overdone overdrive on the chorus.
‘Wanderlust’ is a more positive showing, suggestive of late period Rainbow, with good guitar riffs and interplay with the keys during JB’s solo, while Hughes listens to his better angels.  A bit less Sturm und Drang in the drum sound would be welcome though. And the closing ‘When The Morning Comes’ is also nicely downbeat, with rippling guitar lines, more restrained drums, and injections of piano, while the bridge features bursts of organ over taut guitar chords.  At nearly 8 minutes it’s overlong, with an unnecessary “big finish”, but at least there’s some nuance along the way.
For me though, the best thing here is ‘The Last Song For My Resting Place’.  Tellingly, it features patient vocals from Joe Bonamassa.  At nearly 8 minutes, it’s top quality throughout, featuring a mandolin intro and fiddle breaks, and it has an epic quality making good use of quiet and loud passages. Recalling songs like ‘Last Matador Of Bayonne’ and ‘Black Lung Heartache’, it’s the sort of thing Bonamassa does really well, with or without the bone-crunching power chords augmenting his tasteful solo.

Too often though, BCCIV is like being on the wrong end of an artillery barrage in support of an assault by the Screaming Eagles, and producer Kevin Shirley has to take some responsibility for failing to tame the sonic excess. Great heavy rock isn’t solely about being loud, and too often the imagination evident on BCCIV is overpowered.  It's an okay album, but to these ears it sure as hell isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Steve Hill - Solo Recordings: Volume 3

Titling this album Solo Recordings: Volume 3 may be a bit prosaic, but Steve Hill isn’t kidding.  Even in the studio, Hill likes to record as a live one-man band. Which seems like an unnecessary constraint to me – why make life difficult for yourself?  But regardless of his approach, he manages to produce material of considerable variety and quality across this outing.
Hill sets out his stall in convincing fashion with ‘Damned’, a stomp reminiscent of early Black Keys, with fuzzy, scratchy guitar that hits the mark.  He continues in a similar vein with
Steve Hill - ain't nobody else there
‘Dangerous’, which a features a great riff crashing around a more soulful vocal of Paul Rodgers-ish depth. There’s a bit too much of a splashing cymbal sound in evidence, but that quibble aside it’s a cracker.
Hill doesn’t stick to the multi-instrumental template throughout though.  He introduces a lighter mood with the likes of ‘Slowly Slipping Away’ and ‘Troubled Times’, both of which feature twinkling, tasteful, Jimmy Page-goes-Bert Jansch acoustic guitar picking.  Hill adds harp to the mix on the former, along with vocals in a slightly higher register, producing a more relaxed vibe over a laid-back beat.  ‘Troubled Times, meanwhile, is a more reflective, shimmering piece, with plenty of variety in the guitar work to create a really interesting, excellent tune.
He takes it easy on ‘Emily’ too, with some fun acoustic strumming over a bouncing beat, imbued with summer sun and romantic hope. ‘Going Down The Road Feeling Bad, meanwhile, is a ripping and light acoustic number that manages to meld a gospel feel with a chilled vibe, vaguely recalling fellow Canuck Matt Andersen.
There are still some heavier grooves though, such as ‘Rhythm All Over’, on which Hill describes his usual modus operandi while adding a bit more variation to his typical stomp. It opens with a jagged riff that Hill proceeds to take in different directions around the chorus, and features a strong slide solo. ‘Walking Grave’ is an old-fashioned blues made heavy, and busy with some shifts in tempo, while Hill rips out some big guitar chords.
A couple of other stompers are satisfactory, if less dynamic. And I could probably live without both ‘Still A Fool And A Rolling Stone’ (aka ‘Catfish Blues’) and Hill’s version of ‘Rollin & Tumblin’, even if neither lets the side down.  The former is in a slow tempo a la Hendrix and adds an interesting coda, while Hill’s sonorous vocals continue to impress with their authenticity. The latter is a straight ahead reading, though it eschews the classic ‘shave and a haircut, two bits’ rhythm, but does feature some shuddering slide and a more arresting ‘Stop Breaking Down’ interlude that plays around with the rhythm.

Steve Hill explores some heavier dimensions than the aforementioned Matt Andersen, but as Solo Recordings: Volume 3 demonstrates, he too does a damn good job of carrying the torch for the true solo musician. This is an album with guts and taste, and I say more power to Steve Hill’s elbow.

Solo Recordings: Volume 3 is released on 6 October 2017 by No Label Records.
Steve Hill is touring Germany in September, and supporting Wishbone Ash on a 27 date UK tour in October and November.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Listened to lately . . .

Time to catch up on a couple of albums from the last year that slipped by without any Blues Enthused comment, but first of all a new single from a familiar name.

Mollie Marriott – Control/Truth Is A Wolf
Put Steve Marriott out of your mind.  Mollie Marriott isn’t some raucous blues-rock bawler like her dad.  As this single from her forthcoming album Truth Is A Wolf demonstrates, she’s
Mollie Marriott - blonde ambition
Pic by Rob Blackham
much more in Jo Harman territory, vocally and stylistically.  Co-written with Sam Tanner of Brother Strut, ‘Control’ kicks off in the vein of a modern work song, over a steady, throbbing drumbeat, while Marriott’s voice swoops and soars over it.  Gradually the tempo picks up, some impressive backing vocals add depth, and a gritty guitar solo puts icing on the cake.  ‘Truth Is A Wolf’ is a slower, haunting effort with a bluesy edge, on which Marriott demonstrates excellent vocal control as she imitates a wolf-like howl – in an entirely musical fashion, I should make clear.  These two tracks from Ms Marriott represent a promising overture for the album to come.


Truth Is A Wolf is released on 3 November.
Mollie Marriot tours the UK supporting Bad Touch in November and December.

Selwyn Birchwood – Pick Your Poison
Floridian Selwyn Birchwood’s first album Alligator album in 2014, Don’t Call No Ambulance, was a strong calling card, and if anything this follow-up released back in May is even stronger.  ‘Trial By Fire’ kicks off the album with Othar Turner-like fife and drums as an intro to a distinct air of hypnotic North Mississippi hill country, a slitheringly convincing first stop on a tour of blues styles.  Birchwood’s lap steel guitar gets a rollicking workout on ‘Guilty Pleasures’, while they do a nice mash up of funk and a reggae beat on the title track, and ‘Reaping Time’ follows in an old blues tradition - the solemn contemplation of death.
It’s all drawn together by Birchwood’s gravelly voice, and a meaty sound bolstered by the sax playing of Regi Oliver.  Musically the material is both original and mature, and Birchwood also has a knack for a lyric, getting fiery with the political statement of ‘Police State’, and witty on the likes of the gospelly, N’Awlins-tinged ‘Even The Saved Need Saving’.  No two ways about it, Selwyn Birchwood is a rising star.

Fantastic Negrito – The Last Days Of Oakland
I bought Fantastic Negrito’s latest offering last year, but somehow it slipped my mind for ages afterwards.  Which is a shame, because it’s as adventurous an affair as his earlier Fantastic Negrito Deluxe EP, reviewed here back in 2015.  Multi-instrumentalist Negrito allies old blues stylings – going all the way back to the haunting traditional folk song ‘In The Pines’, popularised by Lead Belly among others – to loops and beats to create something that may not be unique, but manages to sound old-fashioned and modern at the same time.

If truth be told he overdoes the work song notion a bit, but there’s still plenty of mileage in the rock steady bass and drums, falsetto vocals and keyboard trills of ‘Working Poor’, the cantering syncopation of ‘Scary Woman’, and the Prince-like juddering staccato of ‘Hump Thru The Winter’.  Reprised from the EP, ‘Lost In A Crowd’ veers from tense stomp to wistful refrain, while ‘Rant Rushmore’ goes the other way with a fragile verse belying bitter, twisted lyrics before crashing into a heavy chorus.  Fantastic Negrito may not have quite cracked the formula yet, but he’s got enough going on to give Gary Clark Jnr a run for the money in the blues-meets-beats stakes.