Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Listened to lately - The Jimmys, and Ruzz Guitar's Blues Revue

The Jimmys – Gotta Have It

Well this is fun.  The Jimmys, hailing from Madison, Wisconsin, evidently have a fondness for prime time blues and rock’n’roll, which they translate into original material with commitment and no small degree of panache.  A seven-piece featuring horns, led by keys man Jimmy Voegeli, this is an ensemble outfit designed to put a smile on your face.
The cast assemble for new movie Ocean's 7
Opening track ‘Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet’ comes over like ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ pepped up by horns, which push matters along amid snappy guitar, simple tinkling piano, groaning vocals and booming drums.  It’s a swinging Chuck Berry vibe they explore further on the mid-tempo ‘Hotel Stebbins’, a tale of partying that includes “midget wrestling on a Saturday night” to the accompaniment of rinky-dink piano from Voegeli crowned by a boogie-woogie solo, alongside spot-on interjections and some great vocal harmonies.
In between they display a musical sense of humour on ‘Grim Reaper’, with its spooky, stalking groove, a tasty sax solo from Pete Ross, and trills of piano and guitar around the simple rhythm.  ‘Write A Hit’ is a catchy co-write with Marcia Ball, who also duets on this dialogue of domestic breakdown, which ironically carries musical echoes of the Glen Campbell and Rita Coolidge hit ‘Something ‘Bout You Baby (I Like)’.
They also show some different blues tendencies on ‘Started Up Again’, an apologia for failed sobriety that has a laid back vibe akin to Willie Dixon’s ‘Walkin’ The Blues’, albeit less sub-baked in feel and with more bells and whistles.  And ‘Words And Actions’ is in silkily soulful blues territory, à la Robert Cray, with a suitably smooth guitar solo from Perry Weber, replete with pinpoint notes.
Things tail off a bit in the second half of the album, though there are enjoyable nods towards Fats Domino in the woozy ‘Drinkin’’ and the slow blues of ‘Someday Baby’, while ‘Take You Back’ conjures a great groove around a strutting beat, to which Weber adds a piercing solo.
Gotta Have It is an infectious affair, full of humour and vibrant musicianship – the horn arrangements hit the mark every time – all stylishly captured by producer (and some time Bonnie Raitt drummer) Tony Braunhegel.  The Jimmys are well worth a spin to put you in a good mood.

Gotta Have It was released on 31 December 2019.

Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue – Live At The Louisiana

Is it a coincidence that the opening two tracks on Live At The Louisiana are covers that also featured on Jimmie Vaughan’s latest album, namely the instrumental ‘Hold It’ and Lloyd Price’s jaunty ‘Baby Please Come Home’?
Perhaps not, given that Vaughan is an avowed influence on Ruzz Guitar.  But either way, they provide a good indication of what Ruzz and co have to offer.  The former is a bright affair trading guitar and organ, and the latter is a swinging, jazzy bite of Texas blues that
Ruzz Guitar gives it some Gretsch
works a treat.  Call me a philistine, but I actually find the Ruzz fella’s zinging guitar tone on
his Gretsch more appealing than Vaughan’s too-oft tinny sound, and it’s backed up here by a strong sax solo from Michael Gavaghan.  On the other hand, it has to be said that across the album Ruzz’s vocals are regularly a smidgen flat – though as the timbre of his voice is pleasing, and he goes at it with feeling, that’s the last I’ll say about it.
In any event, there are numerous other plus points to enjoy.  A thudding beat from drummer Mike Hoddinott kicks off the rockabilly-ish ‘Back Home To Stay’, which then gallops along nicely, a racing bass line from Joe Allen and skipping drums underpinning another tasty sax solo before Ruzz hits top gear with a stinging guitar solo that also takes in some horn harmonising.  ‘ Under Your Spell’ is slow and smoky, featuring trumpet early on from Jack Jowers ahead of a mellow, understated organ outing from Paul Quinn, and then a big guitar solo as the tempo picks up.
Personally I don’t go much for the romantic 50s instrumental ‘Sleepwalk’, a slow and, up to a point, atmospheric thing featuring lots of weeping whammy bar action.  But given that it featured at the close of the movie La Bamba, and has also been performed by the likes of Jeff Beck and Brian Setzer, what do I know?
Whatever - they swing mightily on the energetic R’n’B of ‘Sweet As Honey’, with some chugging rhythm guitar and lively organ, before another damn fine RG guitar solo with impressive tone, incorporating a tasteful downbeat passage to create some dynamics before rocking to a conclusion.  And if anything Buddy Johnson’s ‘It’s Obdacious’ is even, er, swinginger, drawing the album to a good-time, rock’n’rolling conclusion with lots of fun soloing.
Live At The Louisiana may have a few imperfections, but they’re outnumbered by some spankingly good moments of floor-filling R’n’B and old-fashioned rock’n’roll.  On this evidence you’d be well satisfied with the fun quotient delivered by Ruzz Guitar and his gang if you caught them on a night out.

Live At The Louisiana is released on 10 February, and can be pre-ordered here.

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