Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Listened to lately . . .

Jane Lee Hooker – No B!
That's "No B" as in the line "No B-O-Y" from Muddy Waters' 'Mannish Boy', because Jane Lee Hooker are an all female group. Geddit? They might just as well have titled the album "No BS!" though, because this five-piece sure as hell don't mess about.  I copped hold of a download of this album last year, and wish I’d listened to it more often.  These New Yorkers have taken a collection of blues classics, and infused them with the punkish spirit of CBGBs. 
Jane Lee Hooker - bashful souls
But don’t go thinking that means they’re amateurish three-chord wonders.
Although there’s plenty of raw energy at play, they make good use of dynamics, and the twin guitars of Tracy Hightop and Tina ‘T-Bone’ Gorin are cleverly layered at times.  Meanwhile Dana ‘Danger’ Athens is a real blues rock bawler, but capable of clever phrasing that brings to mind the likes of Alex Harvey, especially on the Adam and Eve tale of ‘In The Valley’.  (And if you things those nicknames sound corny, the rhythm section is made up of Hail Mary Z on bass and Melissa ‘Cool Whip’ Houston on drums.  Er, okay.)
They set out their stall with a raucous rendition of ‘Wade In The Water’, before getting their teeth into Johnny Winters’ ‘Mean Town Blues’.  The likes of ‘Champagne And Reefer’ and ‘The Hunter’ also get a serious workout, and the closing ‘Shake With Me’ is a belter, with a delightfully wonky shuffling opening before the playful guitar interplay gives way to wild duelling.
As simple as the approach may be, No B! is a set crackling with energy and wit.  Want something bold and brash to clear the cobwebs?  This is it.
 Jane Lee Hooker are touring France and Germany in October and November.
A new album, Spiritus, will be released on Ruf Records in November.

Geoff Achison – Another Mile, Another Minute
Australian Geoff Achison has evidently been knocking around for ages, but only came to my attention when I caught a snatch of him on the radio earlier this year.  His latest album Another Mile, Another Minute came out in August, and songs like ‘Working My Way Back Home’ recall the relaxed sophistication of Chris Rea, complete with a similar warm rasp of a voice, and in this case some Latin percussion.
That may be his default setting, but the acoustic-driven ‘Delta Dave’, a tribute to a famous Melbourne busker, demonstrates he can pursue other avenues too.  ‘Sum Peeples Got All The Fonk’ is a clever piece of downbeat funk lamenting the singer’s lack of grip on modern ways, and the downbeat ‘A New Bad Habit’, with its loping bass, ticking drums and smooth
Geoff Achison - groovy, baby
horns, is just one example of Achison’s way with a literate, original lyric.
Featuring 14 tracks and running to just over an hour, the album feels a tad overlong.  But there’s plenty to enjoy here from someone marching to the beat of a different drum, and producing imaginative, well-played material.
 Another Mile, Another Minute is released by Jupiter 2 Records.

Jared James Nichols – Black Magic
Every time I see a photo of Jared James Nichols, his back is arched, his hair flail, and what can be seen of his facial expression suggests agony/ecstasy.  It doesn’t bode well.  But actually Black Magic isn’t the one-dimensional display of shredding that I feared.
On this evidence Nichols believes that brevity is the soul of blues rock – 10 tracks, barely 30 minutes – so has sidestepped over-indulgence.  On the other hand ‘Last Chance’ sets sail with a widdly guitar opening that gives way to a thunderous riff and pounding drums that, together with some banal lyrics (eg “Your mind is fuckin’ blown”), is less than inspiring.  There’s some light and shade and a convincing degree of force in ‘The Gun’ though, one of a few mid-paced stomps on display.
There is some variety though, in the funky strut of ‘Honey Forgive Me’ with its female backing vocals, and the shuffling rhythm of ‘Got To Have You’ with its good-time riffing around the chorus, even if it’s a bit slight in the end.
A real plus point though, is that Dennis Holm’s subterranean bass offers a useful counterpoint to Nichols’ squealing solos.  It growls away on ‘Don’t Be Scared’, underpinning a stuttering riff, rumbles around for fun on ‘What Love’, and complements Nichols’ chiming guitar work on closer ‘Home’.
All things considered, Black Magic has some good moments, but there’s plenty of room for development.
 Black Magic is released by Listenable Records on 27 October.

The Bad Flowers – ‘Thunder Child’
The new single from Black Country heavy rockers The Bad Flowers, ‘Thunder Child’ blasts off with heavy riffage and lung-bursting vocals, clattering drums, lead-weighted bass – and some naff, back-of-the-fag-packet lyrics.  There’s a mildly interesting middle eight though and some signs of dynamics via a sort of quieter section.
Back-up track ‘Lions Blood’ is equally energetic if a bit soulless, with a dull chorus and more weak lyrics.  But at least the opening riff has a pleasingly tangled quality, like a distant echo of early Rush maybe.
It’s all pretty breathless stuff, but if nothing else the spirit of NWOBHM is still alive and kicking – and I’m old enough to remember what it was like.
 ‘Thunder Child’ is out now.

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