Thursday, December 21, 2017

Listened to lately . . . Rob Tognoni, The Waterboys

Rob Tognoni – Brave

“Well throw another prawn on the barbie Bruce, and chuck me a cold one!”
Ahem.  Or to put it another way, with Aussie blues rocker Rob Tognoni coming to a parish near me next year, in the midst of numerous laps of Europe, I reckoned it was time to delve into the Tasmanian Devil’s catalogue.  So here we are with his most recent album, the 2016 release Brave.
If you like Dan Patlansky you might well like the Tog, methinks.  Sonically there are similarities, and they share a hoarse rasp on the vocal front.  But where Patlansky often
Rob Tognoni frying a few frets
deploys a post-grunge punch and edginess, Tognoni tends towards more of a good time
hard rockin’ vibe.  So ‘Voodoo Girl’ sounds like Big Boy Bloater on vocal duties for a rehash of Thin Lizzy’s live version of ‘Rosalie’, and ‘1974’ is a nostalgia trip in a similar vein to that Kid Rock mash-up of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and ‘Werewolves Of London’ from ten years ago.  ‘Latino Lounge’, meanwhile, is wah-wah laden lunacy.  It’s something you could imagine Dave Lee Roth cooking up with Steve Vai maybe, if they’d had a heavy night of partying, accompanied by an incessant tape loop of Phil Daniels’ contribution on ‘Parklife’.
Not that it’s all comic cuts.  ‘Dammed [sic] If I Did’ is a neat semi-acoustic blues that could have come from fellow Aussie Russell Morris.  On ‘You’ Tognoni conjures up violin effects, and adds in some Latin percussion for variety – as he also does on the title track. ‘Fly Like An Eagle’ revolves around a fresh, ringing guitar motif, while ‘Happy Birthday’ is straight ahead boogification, and the closing ‘Don’t Be Too Hard On Me’ is a lick-embroidered slice of SRV-style rockin’.
Don’t go to Rob Tognoni for philosophy.  Don’t expect the meaning of life – unless, of course, the meaning of life for you is brightly lit, let’s have a laugh, fret-frying rock’n’roll.  He’s a good bet for that.

Check out Rob Tognoni's 2018 European tour dates here.

The Waterboys – Out Of All This Blue

And now for something completely different.  When The Waterboys first came to prominence, back in the early Eighties, I would have positioned them among the widescreen New Wave acts of a Celtic background that included U2, Simple Minds and Big Country.  But that was a long time ago, and perhaps distracts from the extent to which roots music styles have informed the work of Waterboys kingpin Mike Scott in the subsequent decades. 
Mike Scott - spindly legged mystic rock'n'roller
Whether it’s the Celtic folk stylings of Fisherman’s Blues, or the punchy R’n’B undertones of Modern Blues, Scott has an inventive way with roots music, welding it to his clever, idiosyncratic lyrics to create music that’s fresh and original.
This year’s model of The Waterboys came in the form of Out Of All This Blue, a double album released back in September, on which Scott has opted to base most tracks on ‘drumscapes’ that he has constructed electronically, rather than relying on yer actual drummer type fella.
Now, that wouldn’t be my choice. Electronic beats have their place, but they’re no substitute for the rhythmic drive that contributed to Modern Blues being a belter of a recording.
Still and all, you can’t keep an imaginative muso and wordsmith down.  And Scott has duly achieved a decent hit rate of quality songs.  The likes of ‘If I Was Your Boyfriend’ and ‘If The Answer Is Yeah’ weld catchy tunes to Scott’s trademark humour and way with metre, and ‘New York I Love You’ – among others – displays his near unique talent for enlivening a narrative with a distinct sense of place.
The second disc kicks off in fine form, starting with the driving ‘Hammerhead Bar’ (with real drums from Ralph Salmins, I note), memorialising the madcap hostelry John Entwistle had in his mansion. ‘Mister Charisma’ is a brief and ambiguous contemplation of Keef and his eccentricities.  And ‘Nashville, Tennessee’ is a rootsy bit of country that simultaneously manages to celebrate Waterboys keys player and Nashville resident Brother Paul ‘Goldilocks’ Brown, and Memphis: “My heart is in Memphis, but my ass is in Nashville, Tennessee”.
Even the bonus ‘Blue Variations’ disc (in the deluxe edition) has some treats to offer, such as the opening ‘The Memphis Fox’, an ass-shaking instrumental take on ‘The Connemara Fox’ (from Disc 1) with Paul Brown’s organ to the fore over – fair play – a kick ass drumscape from Scott.  There’s a nu-soul in an alternate version of ‘Didn’t We Walk On Water’, with scat vocals from Jess Kav, and a live version of ‘Nashville, Tennessee’, recorded in Nashville itself on the day it was written – to a wowed audience, natch.
Okay, there are some lightweight eccentricities along the way that will probably make your shrug your shoulders rather than tap your toes.  But nothing ventured, nothing gained – and going on a trip with Mike Scott is always an adventure.

You can find details of The Waterboys' 2018 tour dates here.

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