Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Rusty Ends & Hillbilly Hoodoo - Last Of The Boogiemen

What have we here, wending its way from Kentucky?  Well, it ain’t Dolly Parton, that’s for sure.
The Last Of The Boogiemen was released in mid-2020, but didn’t land in my lap, via a circuitous route, until the autumn.  And the kind of boogie that Rusty Ends & Hillbilly Hoodoo have in mind is most often of a toe-tapping, rockabilly flavour.  It’s not knock your socks off brilliant, to be sure, but it is fun.
They take a couple of songs to get going, but hit their stride when they funk things up a bit on ‘Hillbilly Hoodoo’, with drummer Gene Wickliffe teasingly behind the beat.  Over the course of the album our Rusty could often do with a bit more rough’n’tumble in his vocal, but here he adds
Rusty Ends - old-time shake, rattle'n'roll
some character through the rapped verses and a bit of attitood as he sings about “Hillbilly hoodoo-ah, mountain magic ju-ju-ah”, before adding a typically entertaining solo, all shivering notes and trebly, twangy chords.
They’re in good rock’n’rollin’ form too on ‘Rockabilly Boogie #1003’ and ‘Cottonmouth Rock’, both of which gain some extra zip from shoutalong backing vocals on the chorus.  The latter in particular is in shake, rattle’n’roll territory, with Ends throwing a twinkling solo, tension-and-release imbued solo into the mix.  And he sounds like he’s fun as he delivers a tune about a gang of snakes – yes, really - heading down to the local roadhouse and “wiggling and jiggling” to the music, just one example of our Rusty knocking off an enjoyable, amusing lyric.  And there’s a country-inflected paean to the Western Swing of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys that contributed to the development of rockabilly.
But they get more imaginative on slow blues choons like ‘I Forgot To Say I Love You’ and ‘We Love Our Way Through The Blues’.  Ends’ languid vocal on the former shows good phrasing and personality, added to gentle, rippling guitar with some offbeat, jazzy chords and a mellow, inventive solo.  The latter paints a convincing picture of young and penniless love, with Ends’ quavering voice benefitting from a touch of reverb, and his guitar solo taking on an interesting, buzz-toned quality.
There are a couple of atmospheric mid-paced affairs too.  ‘Stiletto Heels And Fishnet Hose’ combines ticking drums, and a brooding bass line from Dave Zirnheld, to evoke warm night air as the hero meets his ladies as the sun goes down, no longer in the market for “sweet sixteen” but ready for “nicotine breath and whisky voice” in addition to the titular attire.  Ends’ drawled vocal and relaxed guitar solo are right on the money here too.  ‘Midnight Angels’ kicks off with a spoken intro, Ends coming over like George Thorogood as he recalls nights spent playing dens of iniquity up and down Kentucky, and the impact on his impressionable young self of the ladies of the night who frequented them.  It rolls and strolls along with ease, Wickliffe lazing along behind the beat again, and with Ends’ humorous patter it is, once again, great fun.
Gotta say, I reckon that if Brian Setzer had got his hands on Rusty and co as they were recording this, he’d have kicked their butts into delivering more.  More reverb!  More twang!   More slap in that bass!  More of that sax!  More raunch in those vocals, Rusty!  More freakin’ ruckus, guys!
Ahem.  Still an’ all, Last Of The Boogiemen is an innocent pleasure, with a twinkle in its eye.  Like I said before - it's fun!

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