Monday, October 31, 2022

Joanne Shaw Taylor - Nobody's Fool

Hook!  Hook!  Hook!
Chorus!  Chorus!  Chorus!
Hit!  Hit!  Hit!
I can imagine co-producers Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith sitting down at the end of a day’s work on Nobody’s Fool and rubbing their hands with glee at a job well done.  If Joanne Shaw Taylor’s core audience to date has been blues-rockers and guitar nuts, then this album has the potential to garner a wider variety of enthusiastic listeners.
How so?  Because this is an autumn release that’ll help you cling on to summer with its sunny-side-up soul/pop confections, that’s how.  But fear not, six-string fans, there are still lots of tasty guitar breaks to slake your thirst.
The tone is set by the title track.  If Johnnie Walker were to play 'Nobody's Fool' during his Sounds of the
Joanne Shaw Taylor - happy days are here again!
Pic by Kit Wood
Seventies
 radio show, you’d happily accept it was a hit from back then and just get in the groove as it chugs merrily along – and ponder just how much of a nod that slide guitar intro gives to ‘My Sweet Lord’.
The following ‘Bad Blood’ picks up the baton perfectly with its low-twanging Hispanic guitar figure, heralding a heaven-sent chorus that’s trotted out multiple times to maximise its impact.  The attention to detail is terrific, from the lazy, right-in-the-pocket beat to placement of the female backing vocals, to the flurries of organ.  Mind you, they miss a trick with the tubular bell that gets chimed here and there, but not often enough for me.  More tubular bells, I say!
There’s a Sixties soul sound at work here, and there’s more of it with the post-Motown vibe of the romantic ‘Won’t Be Fooled Again’, Bonamassa getting in on the act by trading spot-on solos with Taylor, but all totally in service of the song.  ‘Runaway’ is rippling, blissed-out pop to reinforce the mood, with tripping drums, sun-dappled electric guitar, rubbery bass from Calvin Turner, and a rhythmic vocal nicely delivered by Taylor.
The steady, measured ‘Just No Getting Over You (Dream Cruise)’ is carried along by a bright’n’breezy guitar riff, some tick-tocking wah-wah guitar (or perhaps clavinet) in the background, and – hey, is that a cowbell?  Meanwhile ‘Then There’s You’, a bluesier but still catchy item, struts along on layers of low-slung guitar riffing – the sort of thing you can visualise a trio of backing singers dancing along to in sinuously choreographed fashion.
They take the load off twice, both times to good effect.  ‘Fade Away’ is a total change of pace to a spare, sad slowie led by Taylor’s wistful voice and Deron Johnson’s piano, and then garlanded by cello from Tina Guo that lends an extra air of melancholy.  It’s also a lovely tune.  ‘The Leaving Kind’ is like a mash-up of a quasi-torch song and epic ballad.  It’s built around some timeless-sounding acoustic guitar chording, and ultimately a sweeping guitar solo, emoting away big time before a dying fall.  That’s where the album should have ended, fellas, instead of tacking on the upbeat ‘New Love’ afterwards, good as it is with a Motown-ish feel again.
There’s also a cover of the Eurythmics’ ‘Missionary Man’ undertaken with Dave Stewart himself.  With its synthy bass sound and squelchy guitar break it’s interesting, and different from the original, but possibly the least impactful thing on the album.  The following ‘Figure It Out’ though, featuring scratchy guest guitar from Carmen Vandenberg, hits the power pop bullseye dead centre, evoking both ‘Teenage Kicks’ and The Tourists’ take on ‘I Only Want To Be With You’.  Oh yeah, and it smacks you over the head with the chorus till you submit.
In days gone by I’ve had some reservations about Joanne Shaw Taylor’s singing, and she’s still prone to a curious vowel sound now and then.  But really, full credit to her for leading from the front and capturing the spirit of this enterprise, whether on the sun-drenched upbeat material or the elegiac ‘Fade Away’.  She and the whole ensemble make Nobody’s Fool sound effortless – and very, very easy to like.
 
Nobody’s Fool is out now on KTBA Records, and can be ordered here.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Samantha Fish, Wille & The Bandits - Wylam Brewery, Newcastle, 25 September 2022

Bonus marks to Samantha Fish for wearing a black and white outfit in Newcastle, the home of the Magpies.  Though she really didn’t need any special pleading to get the attention of this audience.
Tonight’s set is front loaded with newer material, ‘Bulletproof’ up first, followed by five straight songs from Faster.  ‘Bulletproof’ is a slam-dunk rocker to open, but it also feels looser, more relaxed, than on previous encounters, as Fish plays around with her phrasing.  There’s not much messing about on the stuff that follows though.  Both the funk groove of ‘All Ice No Whiskey’ and
Samantha Fish feels the burn!
the muscular ‘Faster’, with Sarah Tomek's walloping snare beat, are kept short and to the point. In between, the contemporary bump’n’grind of ‘Twisted Ambition’ is given extra spice by Fish verily wringing that neck on a wild solo.  
During ‘Like A Classic’ her voice sounds a little lighter than usual, and I’m wondering if she might be feeling a slight tickle in her throat, but if so she sure as hell gets over it by the end of the spiky power pop that’s ‘Better Be Lonely', when she unleashes some steepling, swirling high notes.
Maybe her voice is utterly tour-hardened – I don’t see her take a single sip of water during the whole set – but later on even she finds it a challenge to make the falsetto chorus of ‘So Called Lover’ cut through the full force gale they apply to its Blondie-like punk-pop.  It doesn’t stop her enjoying herself though, as she almost bursts into laughter mid-line at one point, probably having glimpsed the novelty flashing shades of superfan ‘Boogie Ignitor’*, standing right in front of her.
The first older song to get an airing is ‘Gone For Good’, a teasing intro giving way to a hip-wiggling run through with plenty room for Samantha’s slippin’an’slitherin’ slide playing, as well as a rattling piano solo from Matt Wade en route to a rip-roaring conclusion.  Then, introducing ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’, Fish jokes about the “churchy” ambience of this domed venue, suggesting it has a certain “resonance-esonance-esonance”.  It’s not exactly a throwaway line, as after the song’s low key intro it builds and builds in dramatic fashion, until she unveils her latest trick, by heaping reverb onto her vocal for a crowning moment, before they add a slinky ending.  Evidently it’s an effect Samantha likes, because she also lets it loose on Nina Simone’s ‘Either Way I Lose’, amplifying the song’s agonised emotion.  A spell of sotto voce guitar turns
Shades of deep purple
steely, then cools off again before she delivers a dentist-drilling solo to round the song off.
Along the way Sam teases the crowd at the start of ‘Bitch On The Run’, asking them to get their hands in the air, scolding them for a half-hearted effort, and promising there’ll be payback later.  Then they rip into it, with that riff that must surely give Keith Richards a phantom tingle up his spine wherever he may be, and in no time the crowd explode into enthusiastic clapping along, such that Fish turns to look at bassist Ron Johnson with a beaming “got ‘em” smile, before diving into an eyeballs-out solo.  Matt Wade steps in with an organ break to take things down, then stomps on the power again.  But La Fish isn’t finished teasing, telling the audience that if they think clapping along was payback then they’re wrong, as it’s time for them to take a turn at singing.  Which they do with gusto, of course.
‘Black Wind Howlin’’ provides the crunking, grinding finale, into which Fish inserts a needling, discordant solo before leading the band into an explosive closing segment - so explosive that she breaks a string.
Fish comes out alone and picks up her acoustic for the first encore, again engaging in some repartee with the crowd, telling them coquettishly that “you guys are special” before embarking on ‘Jim Lee Blues Pt.1’, inspiring some more spontaneous clapping to accompany her extensive, playful solo.  Then it’s time to strap on the cigar box again for the stomping raunch of ‘Shake ‘Em On Down’, which concludes with Samantha executing some bottom of the neck wailing fit to
Smiling Bandit Wille Edwards
disturb the local dog population.
Whisper it if you’re in earshot of the Toon Army, but Samantha Fish delivered an even better 90-minute performance than they’d see at St James’ Park.
Cornwall’s Wille & The Bandits are opening on this tour, in the latest line-up led by singer, guitarist and main man Wille Edwards.  Edwards and WATB have been fixtures on the club circuit and at festivals for years, and deserve the extra exposure this tour will provide for their inventive mix of blues-rock with other stylings.
Opener ‘Caught In The Middle’ is a good example, with Edwards delivering rhythmic rapping amid swirling textures and periodic detonations of power.  He’s equally rhythmic on the funky ‘Keep It On The Down-Low’, which he stirs up with a splintering guitar solo, and later a lap steel break that comes over like interstellar radio bleeping.
‘Still Go Marching In’ is soulful pop over a snapping beat, with oohing backing vocals and woozy lap steel, plus a sensitive singalong asking “When will that rainbow come?”    But they pull out the heavy machinery down the stretch, including the big riff of long-time favourite ‘1970’, on which Edwards goes into full-on axe hero mode, before closing with ‘Bad News’ on which a fugue-like middle passage erupts into a wailing finale.
Wille & The Bandits head out on their own headline tour in February and March next year, and will doubtless attract some Fish fans along to catch them delivering a full set.

*Harry 'Boogie Ignitor' Loflin is a retiree from Washington State, who regularly travels to Europe to follow Samantha's tours, wearing goofy attire to gigs as in accordance with his admirable maxim, "Life is short, have fun!"

Friday, October 28, 2022

Jed Potts & The Hillman Hunters - Swashbucklin'

The Hillman Hunter – a popular middle market British car from yesteryear.  Is this really the vehicle with which to rev up a bundle of classic blues stylings and make them anew in the 21st century?  You betcha.
Swashbucklin’, the second album by Edinburgh three-piece Jed Potts & The Hillman Hunters, brings you nine original tracks that celebrate blues past by creating blues present.  The Hillmans have been doing this kinda thing for years, and they go at it with gusto on this new material.
They open with the title track, making it clear from the outset that they swing like Tarzan, Jonny Christie’s drums and Charlie Wild’s bass locked in a relaxed shuffle.  Meanwhile Jed Potts
"We are not men, we are Hillmans!"
Pic by Allan Ferguson
himself knocks out oddball, playful chords to go with a succession of original lyrical metaphors, before turning his fretboard inside out in a fizzing solo – by which I mean inventiveness, not speed-freakery.
There’s an air of Sean Costello evident there, but Potts and the gang dip into different blues styles elsewhere.  ‘It Won’t Be Long’ is a lurching, clanking, Chicago-style blues, with Potts adopting a scowling vocal tone for lines like, “It won’t be long till my baby’s gone, ain’t gonna do no cleaning, ain’t gonna mow the lawn”.  Medium-sized white Scotsman Jed Potts ain’t never gonna replicate the basso profundo menace of Howlin’ Wolf, but he makes good use of long drawn-out syllables, and the lyrical pay-off is worthy of the Wolfman. The same vibe infuses the bumpin’an’grindin’ ‘Where’s Your Man’, a ‘back door man’ song that combines stabbing chords and an edgy vocal as Potts lays out comic examples of the interloper’s caution. He cracks out a wiry solo, before they take things right down for the bridge, and a third verse advising “You’re gonna call me up saying your husband’s on vacation, I’m calling up that airport baby and check his reservation”. 
‘The Fastest Outlaw’ mashes up ‘Catfish Blues’ with a Rory Gallagher-style cowboy tale, declaring “Tell men speak the legend, and leave the truth alone,’ with tense, stinging chords played off against an offbeat rhythm and rolling bass.  Potts harmonises vocally with his guitar in Rory fashion, then tops things off with a scudding slide solo.
Freddie King instrumentals have been a key reference point for the Hillmans in the past, and they concoct their own fresh take on that style here with ‘Splash-Down!’, two minutes’ worth of pinballing around that peaks with Potts tearing up another solo.  And later there’s a jaunty, hip-wriggling N’Awlins vibe to ‘How’mi’mentuh’, which Potts has described as an attempt to reproduce a Professor Longhair piano boogie vibe on guitar.  In any event it’s a confection that could only work in the hands of a tight-but-loose band like this, with twanging, jingle-jangling guitar and bop-a-loo-bop bass – and, it has to be said, a bit of a naff ending.
Elsewhere, ‘To The Mountains’ offers a more expansive, wide screen country-ish sound, while ‘Won’t Be No Use’ is a danse macabre with spooky bass and halting drums, and Potts’ voice recorded in very analogue-sounding fashion to go with his moaning, shivering slide.  There’s another bout of guitar/voice harmonising, before the pace picks up for a charging finish – and then finds another gear beyond that.
They close with the breezy ‘Take What You Want’, all warped guitar notes and splintered chords over a lazy beat and walking bass, as Potts doesn’t so much riff as duck and dive all over the joint with licks and notes coming out of left field.  It’s short and sweet – in a too short more-ish kinda way.
Jed Potts doesn’t have the strongest voice in the world, but he’s made big strides on the vocal front with this album.  And the same is true of the songwriting, which crackles with energy and some commendably sharp word-smithing.  Swashbucklin’ is a vibrant blast of blues that does what it says on the tin.
 
Swashbucklin’
 is out now on Wasted State Records, and can be ordered here.
 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Jeremiah Johnson - Hi-Fi Drive By

Right from the start, there’s a confidence about Hi-Fi Drive By that says you’re in good company, that there’s an experienced pair of hands at the wheel, and you can sit back and enjoy the ride.  The opening ‘’68 Coupe De Ville’ is a horn-tooting, piano-pounding (with Victor Wainwright guesting on the ivories) slice of rock’n’roll à la John Hiatt’s ‘Tennesse Plates’.  It rattles along with brio, and a comic turn to the lyrics, while Emily Wallace backs up Jeremiah Johnson’s lead vocal in fine, singalong-inducing style.
There’s a satisfying smorgasbord of roots sounds on offer here. ‘Ball And Chain’ is a loose-
Jeremiah Johnson - "Yes Officer, I know I should be wearing a seat belt."
limbed “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” affair in a Seger-ish vein, rocking along in soulful fashion with tasty horn-riffing and a laid back guitar solo from Johnson.  ‘Hot Diggity Dog’ is a funky little slice of Delbert McClinton-like narrative fun, with a laconically drawled vocal and some piercing wah-wah guitar.  And ‘Hot Blooded Love’ has a sultry vibe, with hints of Latin in the rhythm, horns that are more Tijuana than Memphis, and the twinkling tone of Tom Maloney’s guitar fills, paving the way for Johnson’s more biting solo.
‘Skippin’ School’ is a jazzy blues recalling BB King, with its smooth horns and pinpoint guitar work, plus cool piano from the multi-tasking Maloney.  The BB reference prompts the thought that Johnson’s voice might benefit from an ounce or two of more heft.  But his strength is a conversational air that draws you in and pitches some ear-catching, cliché-free lyrics perfectly.  ‘The Squeeze’ is a slow-ish but assertive blues, laying out a clever metaphor for the trials and tribulations of love with the line “I’m beginning to wonder if the juice is worth the squeeze.  Meanwhile ‘Sweet Misery’ is a strolling bad luck blues, with Johnson complaining that “You took all the eggs from my basket, and now you’re coming back for the ham”, reinforced by some stinging guitar from both Johnson and his producer, Paul Niehaus IV.
Niehaus plays musical chairs on the loping, offbeat ‘Quicksand’, adding grooving, funky bass to the swampy vibe, plus dabs of Wurlitzer and contributions to some hey-hey-ing “gang” vocals, while Tom Maloney spices things up with slithering slide guitar, and Johnson plays out one side of a comic spoken dialogue.  It’s typical of an ensemble approach in which a whole array of musicians play their part, with special mention due to Kevin O’Connor for his horn and string arrangements.
And those horns get a special outing on closing track ‘The Band’, which starts off with a Shaft-like cool vibe, with behind-the-beat drums from Joe Meyer and restrained solo-ing from Johnson, before it metamorphoses into a Latino romp, driven along by pattering percussion from Tony Antonelli and O’Connor in support of Meyer’s drums, while the horns juke it out in fine style.
The starting point though, is the songs.  Johnson, ably assisted by Niehaus and Maloney, has the knack of writing interesting material that has warmth and personality.  Having dug those foundations, Hi-Fi Drive By then does them justice with a succession of impressive performances.  Jeremiah Johnson and friends have done a damn fine job here – hot diggity dog to ‘em.
 
Hi-Fi Drive By
 is released by Ruf Records on 21 September.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Jimmy Hall - Ready Now

Once upon a time, many moons ago, Jimmy Hall was singer, harmonica and sax player with the Southern rock band Wet Willie.  They had some big hits Stateside back in the Seventies, but suffice to say their name only registers at the edge of my consciousness.  So I come to his new solo album Ready Now, produced by the increasingly busy duo of Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, with no real expectations.
Initial signs are promising, as the boogie of opening track ‘Jumpin’ For Joy’ aims to deliver a good time, and succeeds.  The guitar riffing may be pretty simplistic, but with skedaddling drums from Greg Morrow, bursts of organ and barroom piano from the ubiquitous Reese Wynans, and
Jimmy Hall checks out the bar to see if Bonamassa is getting his round in
Pic by Drew Stawin
a rock’n’rollin’ solo from Bonamassa, it’s an infectious concoction.  And Hall plays his part too, hollering away over the top like a good ‘un, and giving his harp a satisfying blast too.
For a guy in his seventies, Hall’s voice is in admirable nick, with plenty of wattage and range.  What he does with it is more of a mixed bag however.  On the following ‘Risin’ Up’, with its soulful ‘Take Me To The River’ type vibe, he gives it plenty without offering much light and shade.  The same is true on 'Ready Now' itself, a song about turning over a new leaf that all sounds a bit earnest, but is redeemed by a slide soul from Warren Haynes that carries some real cutting edge.  And if his harp solo on the song-of-the-road ‘Will You Be Here’ shows plenty of subtlety, his vocal could be more supple.
He does better elsewhere though, his urgency and power working a treat on the rocking ‘Girl’s Got Sugar’, with its hard-chugging rhythm guitar, more stonking keys from Wyman, and an excellent, ducking and diving guitar excursion from Josh Smith.  And he shows more vocal variety on both ‘Holding On For Dear Love’ and ‘Without Your Love’. The former is a soulful ballad, a bit sugary for my taste, but given extra colour by the harmonies of Jade McCrae and Dannielle De Andrea – who deserve plaudits for their contributions to several tracks – and by a funky wah-wah turn from Bonamassa.  ‘Without Your Love’ is a contemplative affair led off by acoustic guitar, with the range and dynamics of Hall’s vocal suiting the growing intensity of feeling, and the guesting Jared James Nichols adding a tasteful, nicely toned guitar solo.
With the addition of the slowie ‘A Long Goodbye’, a Bonamassa co-write, it feels to me like there’s a bit much of this balladeering tendency, but at least this one has an epic, cinematic quality that’s very JB, topped off by him throwing the kitchen sink at a showcase solo, before an anthemic refrain to close.
Other songs explore different directions, with mixed results.  ‘Dream Release’, a co-write between Hall and his son, is an elegy for his friendship with Greg Allman, but to these ears works none too well, maudlin in tone and sounding like it originated in musical theatre.  ‘Love For It’, contrastingly, is a little gem.  With its out of the ordinary percussion and bass framework, soul-gospel roots, and unusual shift in tone from verse to chorus, it may not be a barn burner, but it’s still a genuinely original song.  And Hall does a good job narrating the bluesy song of experience ‘Eyes In The Back Of Your Head’, as it ripples along on acoustic guitar, and tootling harp.
Bonamassa completists may be interested in Ready Now for his five co-writes and varied guitar contributions. Overall though, it’s an inconsistent album.  Some tracks hit the mark, but others fall a bit short, especially when they lean towards the emotive.  Throwing a bit more wit and rock’n’roll into the mix may have suited Jimmy Hall better.
 
Ready Now
 is out now on KTBA Records, and can be ordered here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Starlite Campbell Band - Starlite Campbell Band Live! 2

Come on everybody take a trip with me, to a land where experience and enthusiasm are as important as youth and beauty; a land where hype and Spotify numbers take second place to wit and quality; a land, in fact, where more people recognise the charms of the Starlite Campbell Band.
Barely has the last chord died from Starlite Campbell Band Live!, and here are Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell back with another collection of live cuts for your delectation and delight.  It’s an unusual step, but what the hell – rock’n’roll don’t follow no instruction manual!
. . . Live! 2 observes one of the Laws of Good Live Albums though, by serving up more than just 
Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell - curiously good fun
the bleedin’ obvious.  Yes, there are a clutch of tracks from the duo’s two studio albums – predominantly the first, Blueberry Pie – but there’s also a selection of stuff from Simon Campbell’s 2011 solo album ThirtySix, and a clever two-fer-one cover.
‘Hot As Hell’ kicks things off, with Campbell snapping out a spiky blues riff and singing “I an’t got no sense of humour” – pull the other one, Simon – before Steve Gibson’s drums arrive to get a good shuffle going, and Jonny Henderson weighs in with piano to colour in the background before adding a sprightly solo, with Campbell pulling out a stride-like rock’n’roll riff to catch the ear in the background.
A different shade of blues is on offer later, with the slowie ‘Still Got Time To Be My Baby’, Campbell underlining his guitar chops, as firstly he parcels out some adroitly controlled licks, and then as he delivers an imaginative solo, full of subtle changes of pace, unusual angles, and tension and release.
Elsewhere that blues tendency is blended into a broader rock sensibility, as on the swinging ‘Brother’, on which organ and bass carry much of the backing, while Campbell adds subtle embroidery.  Or the laid back ‘I Need A Light’, which is a masterclass in arrangement with its cool bass line, slinky Fender Rhodes piano motif, and loosely rolling drums.
The swaggering ‘You’re So Good For Me’ is a showcase for Suzy Starlite’s excellent bass, first as she complements a crackling Campbell guitar solo, then in the foreground to the accompaniment of some discordant, donking guitar chords, with a stirring organ solo to follow.  They pack a hell of a lot into four minutes here, including some enjoyably sly lyrics.
The title track of second album Language Of Curiosity takes things in another direction with its air of New Wave power pop electronica, with Starlite and Campbell doubling up on vocals over quick-stepping drums from Gibson, and some throbbing, wriggling bass.  But while that may be indicative of their more expansive musical tastes, their rock’n’roll smarts are underlined by a couple of other outings.  Controlled feedback from Campbell heralds the purposeful strut of ‘Peter Gunn’, the riff taken up by Starlite’s bass while Campbell scrabbles away over the top, including a couple of very Blackmore-ish licks before folding the tune into ‘Shakin’ All Over’ – nicely done, with wit and imagination.  And Campbell’s own ‘I Like It Like That’ is a detonation of crunching guitar chords, rumbling bass and snapping drums, tense and urgent until the shivering pay-off to the chorus.  It’s a ripper of a track, hinting at a Sixties rave-up vibe without ever quite going there.
‘Walkin’ Out The Door’ makes for a strong finale, with its walking bass line and ‘Green Onions’ organ, while Campbell adds flickering, shimmering guitar notes before kicking his solo into gear with distorted, nerve-jangling chords, leading to a warped, sci-fi like passage that eventually returns to earth for a shiverin’ an’ shakin’ conclusion.
. . . Live! 2 isn’t perfect.  The sequencing of tracks could be better, the lightly funky ‘Sex Is The Key’ is filler, and some distracting between songs chat could usefully have edited out.   But still, it's great fun, with musical intelligence and lightness of touch to put some bigger name bands to shame.
 
Starlite Campbell Band Live! 2
 is released on 7 October, and can be ordered here.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Quickies - The Hungry Williams, The Terraplanes Blues Band, and Keith Thompson

Today's Quickies round-up catches up with a few albums that have been left behind in the rush, as it were - and representing three different sides of the blues.

The Hungry Williams – Let’s Go

Well, this is fun!
The Hungry Williams come from Milwaukee, but their heart is in New Orleans, their name coming from NOLA drummer Charles ‘Hungry’ Williams.  And the enthusiasm they bring to Let’s Go! is captured by opening track ‘Mardi Gras Day’, an on-the-money scene-setter for their sound, all second line rhythms led by drummer and band founder John Carr’s tripping, skipping, syncopated snare drum playing.  There’s bouncing bass and tootling horns, while singer Kelli
The Hungry Williams painting a rosy picture
Pic by Mark Hines
Gonzalez paints a tempting picture of a festive Big Easy atmosphere, reinforced by bright trumpet breaks from Lech Wierzynski.
The ten tracks are a mixture of covers and originals that sit alongside each comfortably.  There’s a brisk trilogy of nifty tracks about women ditching, or rebounding from, unsatisfactory men.  The swaying ‘Movin’ On is first up, followed by ‘You’d Better Find Yourself Another Fool’, which dials up a fingersnapping rhythm to underpin some doo-wop-ish backing vocals, and features a sprightly guitar solo and a rumbling baritone sax break.  ‘One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show’, a 50s B-side for Big Maybelle, is a bluesier affair, with some jangling guitar from Joe Vent and tinkling piano from Jack Stewart, but the real focus is the sassy, storytelling vocal from Gonzalez.
Then they flip the relationship schtick with the eye-fluttering female crush of the simple ‘Gee Baby’, and the adoring ‘Boss Man’, with its stuttering percussion, jaunty sax solo and jungle drum propelled bridge.
Other highlights are the humorous ‘Big Mouth Betty’ and the closing ‘669 (Across The Street From The Beast’.  The former is a Gonzalez composition whose heroine is “busy talking when she’s fast asleep”, set off by strolling drums and a couple of woozy sax breaks, and the latter tells the swinging story of having the Devil for a party animal neighbour, with twanging guitar from Joe Vent and squirrelling sax complementing Gonzalez’ jazzy vocal.
A good time is had by all for half an hour or so on Let’s Go!  It may not be anything profound, but The Hungry Williams do what they set out to do, and convey the festive vibe of N’Awlins very nicely.
 
Let’s Go!
 was released by Rochelle Records on 9 September, and can be ordered here.
 
 
The Terraplanes Blues Band – Stepping Stones
 
Bristol-based four-piece The Terraplanes Blues Band get their mojo working with an R’n’B sound that ranges from the grinding riff’n’rhythm of ‘Highway 61’ to the prickly and energetic stop-time riffing of the enjoyable ‘Get Along’ and the Quo-like boogie of ‘Rattlesnake Blues’, a tale of a Queen Bee with an appealing tune.
Nick Scrase goes at it with gusto on vocals, in addition to his guitar duties, and Eduardo Allen is
The Terraplanes Blues Band provide some local, er, colour
often well to the fore on harp, whether squawking away on the Diddley-esque ‘My Malaise’ or getting more mournful on the loping slow blues of ‘Pick Myself Up’.  He wails away effectively on ‘Don’t Do Me Wrong’ too, counterpointing some jangling chords and spiky lead from Scrase.
It feels like the recording and mix haven’t been especially kind to the drums of Tom Turner, who provides some snap and crackle but is hampered in terms of real oomph.  The skating bass’n’drums of ‘Ain’t Had No Lovin’’ works well though, with Scrase’s jagged, chopping rhythm guitar and Allen’s swinging harp suggesting a Feelgood-ish vibe here and there.
The slow-ish ‘North Street Blues’ provides some Bristolian local colour, with some fuzzy slide from Scrase and slithering harp from Allen.  ‘The Ballad Of Ragtime Texas’ takes a different tack,
a light and perky affair with the addition of piano from Richard Parsons to provide extra jollification.  The closing ‘The Lonesome Crow’ provides the most imaginative note though, dialling things down for a folk-country narrative featuring a tasteful segment of low key but clean cut guitar against an organ backdrop – and a Clint-like spoken passage that, intentionally or not, is a bit of a hoot.
Stepping Stones is stronger on enthusiasm than expertise at times, but if you came across The Terraplanes Blues Band down your local then I reckon they’d be infectious enough to make you abandon your beer for a bit of a soft shoe shuffle.
 
Stepping Stones
 is out now, and can be ordered here.
 
 
Keith Thompson – Smoke And Mirrors
 
When Smoke And Mirrors kicks off with ‘Easy Money’, the signs are promising.  It’s laid back, with interesting sprinkles of guitar, and Keith Thompson’s smoky, semi-groan of a vocal fits in well.  The subtle, Gilmour-like tones of his first guitar solo show effective control, and the same is true of a second outing that mixes long notes with fluttering licks.
Keith Thompson trying out a Hendrix move - sort of.
Unfortunately, Thompson doesn’t maintain a similar standard across the whole of the album.  There are some clunking lyrics on the likes of ‘Moment Of Choice’ and ‘Sandcastles Of Lies’, and Thompson’s vocal feels more strained in sympathy, while elsewhere those fluttering guitar breaks begin to feel like a default setting.
There are other good moments though, such as the Toto-ish AOR of ‘Falling’, where some well-executed harmonies give a lift to the chorus, and Thompson conjures up some interesting textures in addition to a wah-wah solo that adds a different dimension.  ‘Softer Frame Of Mind’ opens up in more of a Celtic folkie-prog vibe, a twiddly guitar line overlaid with swooping synth notes, before the tune smooths back into AOR territory for its chorus, with Thompson turning out a stronger vocal, leaning towards an angsty groan again at times.  And the fiddle break is a nice touch that elevates matters.
There’s a bit of an edge to ‘The Ride’, with its measured beat and plonking bass sound, and some background chatter adding an interesting texture, before a rippling, sometimes woozy guitar solo.  And the hushed, meditative – and lengthy - slowie ‘Chasing The Wind’ gradually reaches for the epic, with an interesting breeze-blown solo in the middle.
Keith Thompson has some interesting ideas, and a handy way with guitar tone, but Smoke And Mirrors is a patchy album, that could have been much better with more focus and consistency, especially in the songwriting and vocal departments.

Smoke And Mirrors is available now on Bandcamp, here.