Monday, October 30, 2023

Quickies - Liz Jones & Broken Windows, and Consummate Rogues

The latest Quickies round-up compares and contrasts a couple of recently released live albums for your delectation and delight.

Liz Jones & Broken Windows – Live At The Voodoo Rooms
This may be an avowedly unvarnished live album, with a few imprecise moments allowed to stand, but Liz Jones & Broken Windows still make good on the rootsy subtleties that are their stock-in-trade.
The opening ‘No Classic Love Song’ makes for a good appetiser, a hymn to an unconventional couple that Jones wrote for their wedding, which has a loping, offbeat, gypsy-ish charm.  Jamie Hamilton’s piano is to the fore, and also adds various frills and filigrees, while John Bruce’s
John Bruce and Liz Jones of the tinted Broken Windows
guitar solo adds some extra bite to set things on their way.
The strongest of the nine songs stretch across the middle of the album, starting with the mandolin strumming and twangy guitar motif of ‘Lover’, with Jones making a delicious vocal out of the simple melody.  A sumptuously ascending guitar and piano line comes up a couple of times to reel you in, and Hamilton adds some chocolate box piano remarks to enhance the final verse.  The following ‘Jo’ is an interesting character study with a ‘Fever’-like groove à la Peggy Lee, smokily delivered by Jones overs warm Fender Rhodes piano, punctuated by twirls of guitar and rattles of vibraslap, topped off by a sweet’n’sour slide solo from Bruce.
Jones reveals that the patient ‘Strum’ is about “fancying a musician onstage”, so it may not be amiss to interpret the tagline of “Strum, strum, strum, with two fingers and a thumb” as being about more than just guitar playing.  Percussionist and mandolin player Suzy Cargill jazzes up the rhythm with bongos, and Bruce delivers an edgier solo as the tune gets rather more, er, aroused.  New song ‘Bala Man’ opens with raindrop-descending piano and a fuzzy Gerry Rafferty-like guitar riff, then clacks along in relaxed fashion as Jones delivers a conversational lyric.  The riff returns as the launchpad for a tasty solo, and a turn of organ before the rippling piano rounds things off.  And the set peaks with the Hispanic-sounding stroll of ‘Before Me’, a delightful ensemble affair with typically clever Jones wordsmithing in its bitter lyric from the standpoint of someone feeling spurned by their lover.
The moody “J’Accuse” of ‘Narcissist’, the cover of JB Lenoir’s quirky blues ‘The Whale’, and the closing ‘Call Centre Blues’ are all fine, but there are stronger songs in the Windows’ repertoire that could have elevated this set still further*.  All the same, Live At The Voodoo Rooms is still a tasty treat to provide a flavour of what the Jones gang are like in a live setting.
Live At The Voodoo Rooms is out now, and can be ordered here.
You can read the Blues Enthused review of Broken Windows’ debut album here, and their second album Bricks & Martyrs here.
*On second thoughts, 'Call Centre Blues' has rather grown on me, earworm fashion!
Consummate Rogues – Live In Bucharest
As strategies for your debut album go, a live recording made in Romania is a bit oddball – especially when the resulting set could reasonably be described as a pretty traditional affair.
Consummate Rogues are a four-piece led by piano-player, sax man and singer Chris Rand, a session man who has played with many artists on the British blues and jazz scenes, and has been able to call on team-mates of a similar ilk to get this band up and running.
You don’t really need the PR bumf to tell you that boogie-woogie piano is a big influence on what’s going on here, as Rand demonstrates his ivory-bashing chops on the likes of ‘How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away’, just about vindicating his byzantine introductory anecdote
Consummate Rogues - not in Bucharest
involving a tribute album to the famed Stones piano man Ian Stewart, which provided the inspiration for the song.  It’s an okay strolling boogie, but they kick things up a notch when they segue into the old standard ‘Alright, Okay, You Win’, and the band weigh in to add some rock to the roll.  Rand whacks out another stonking piano turn, and then picks up his sax to add a jazzy but emphatic solo, over the rattling rhythm section of Geoff Threadgold on bass and Will Chism on drums.
This mix of originals and covers is the template followed across the album, the best of the new songs being ‘Across The Year’, which ploughs a tense groove with a low down riff that recalls the bass line from the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’, and features an attack-minded guitar solo from Leo Appleyard that really should be punched up higher in the mix.  Meanwhile an avowed New Orleans influence is reflected in Dr John’s ‘Such A Night’, which has a suitably good-time vibe and a vaguely romantic air too, plus a nice walking bass line.
A penchant for roots rock is revealed in a suitably energised reading of The Band’s ‘Rag Mama Rag’, and a laid-back take on Dylan’s ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’.  Rand’s vocal on the latter is confident enough, though as a rule his voice leans towards the thin and reedy, and without any vocal harmonies they can’t make it fly like the original – though Appleyard does give it some zip with a sizzling, occasionally discordant guitar solo.  Rand’s vocal is better suited to the Dylan tune though, a good tune that offers a different, Americana-type slant to the set.
‘I’m A Believer’ seems like a bizarre song selection though, especially when set in motion by Rand’s impressively sophisticated boogie-woogieing intro, until the band enter the fray with a brisk train-track rhythm – but again the lack of vocal harmonies is telling.
Live In Bucharest is a good bit of fun, but a bit more focus would have been useful to get the best out of an obviously talented group of musicians.
Live In Bucharest is out now, and can be ordered here.

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