Monday, August 8, 2022

Mickey Jupp - Up Snakes, Down Ladders

The story goes that this collection of 16 tracks hasn’t so much been released as wrestled from the reluctant mitts of so-called pub rocker Mickey Jupp for public consumption.  Jupp, the fella who wrote ‘Down At The Doctors’ for Dr Feelgood, has been living at arm’s length from the music biz for 40 years, in the wonderfully named Cumbrian hamlet of Boot.  But that hasn’t stopped him writing songs – it just required some arm-twisting on the part of Conquest Music label boss Alan Bambrough for this selection to see the light of day.
Fun can come in different shapes, weights and measures, and this little box of delights consists
Mickey Jupp takes a well-earned break from recording
Pic by Alan Bambrough
of a light and breezy, shuffling and two-stepping, short and sweet smorgasbord of Nick Lowe-ish rock’n’roll, blues and country.  The whole shebang was written, performed and produced by Jupp himself, closeted away in Boot, and sounds as relaxed as can be from start to finish.
The opening track, ‘I’d Love To Boogie’, is a shakin’n’rattling bit of jump blues/rockabilly, in which the hero can see a cutie standing there across the room, but can’t get her on the dance floor because the bar is propping him up.  Amphetamine-fuelled Feelgood R'n'B it’s not, but it’s still an irresistible turn from a worldly-wise, seasoned songsmith.  And it’s funny, too.
Jupp’s piano playing is to the fore there, and on many of the tracks that follow, chiming away on the simple but effective aching country of ‘Why Don’t You Don’t’, supplemented by injections of accordion; rinky-dink on the strolling ‘Learning To Swim’ another “too much drinking” song with a neat lyrical twist; leading on the stop-time riff of the perhaps over-subtle ‘Bad News Can Travel Slow’, notwithstanding its cleverly phrased title line; and trilling away on the Delbert McClinton-like rock’n’roll of the brief but entertaining ‘I Beg Your Pardon? (You Heard)’.
A few of these tunes, in fact, aren’t so much short and sweet as concise to the point of being abrupt.  The snappy ‘Get Hot’, given a semi-zydeco vibe by some shots of accordion, and infused with typically spot-on harmonies, certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.  And the yearning but witty ‘Lonely Boy’, which feels like it could do with a touch more muscle despite stirrings of electric guitar, comes to a sudden and less than dramatic conclusion.
Over the piece Up Snakes, Down Ladders may not quite match the musical sophistication of Geraint Watkins’ similarly rootsy 2019 album Rush Of Blood.  But Jupp still has the savvy to pull off the trick of making the laid back title track sound both spare and lush at the same time.  And the same is true on the vaguely Latin-feeling ‘Man In The Mirror’, a reflective (duh) tune with an intriguing lyric about loneliness, and a subtle mix of acoustic guitar, piano, and whispers of organ.
Another plus is that just about every song is perked up by some kind of lyrical conceit.  ‘Like You Don’t Love Him’ is the story of a properly smitten fella observing the object of his affections in a shallow relationship with another guy, and wishing it was him, set to a great melody, with warm, smoochy piano chords and flutters of organ.  ‘I Threw Myself At You (And Missed)’, meanwhile, is a great tagline for a languid bit of country fit for a place on the soundtrack to some offbeat Coen Brothers movie.  And ‘The Ballad Of Tutford Darnell’ is a nudge-and-a-wink, if slightly corny, bit of loping autobiography.
‘The Blues Ain’t What It Used To Be’, muses Jupp, on a nifty, clip-clopping country-meets-blues eulogy for simpler times.  But Up Snakes, Down Ladders is roots music that displays timeless qualities – sharp songs, great musical feel, and heart.

Up Snakes, Down Ladders is out now on Conquest Music, and can be ordered here.

No comments:

Post a Comment