CD Review – The Innocent Ones by Willie Nile – 8 out of 10
The Singer-songwriter Willie Nile is something of a musical magpie, but always managing to fashion something new out of older material. His voice is part Elvis Costello, part Bob Dylan, part Tom Waits, part Tom Petty, but always his own. His music is part Punk, part New Wave, part retro, part rock, part blues, part jazz, but an attractive hybrid nevertheless, but what he sings about is not your usual boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy learns something type narrative, there is something more at work here. With a stripped down band personal of multi-instrumentalists Willie Nile, Steuart Smith, doing most of the musical heavy-lifting, and Frankie Lee as co-songwriter, backing vocalist, and provider of the groups powerful drum sounds, the album has a multi-layered full sound, using more than the two guitar, drums and bass format, with piano, organ, harmonicas, sitar guitars,banjo, and pump organ adding to the mix. The album goes from the protest song ‘One Guitar’ which recasts the rhythm parts of Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ to good effect, to the ballads ‘The Innocent Ones’ and ‘Sideways Beautiful’, to the punky ‘Cant stay home’ and ‘Hear you Breathe’. This is a fine album, full of something new using something old, perfect for older punks and new wavers who are not ready for the pipes and slippers.
CD Review – Still Making History – Ana Popovic
The latest album from Serbian guitarist/singer-songwriter Ana Popovic draws on a series of influences, while maintaining a distinctive identity of her own.
The music changes from straightforward blues, to jazz with elements of rock and reggae helping to tell blues stories from a different perspective. The immigration issue is featured in ‘Hold on’ and ‘Shadow after Dark’, while other songs such as ‘Hungry’ and Willie Mae Thornton’s ‘You don’t move me’ concentrate on relationships.
The guitar playing draws on Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, with some very good slide guitar featuring throughout the album, but also has echoes of Wes Montgomery, while her singing has elements of Bonnie Raitt and such rock orientated singers as Anastacia. The use of a strong band, with brass and Hammond Organ and which features singer and keyboard player John Cleary, also helps to add to the mix.
The growing confidence in both song-writing and playing, as well as a developing voice, means that Ana Popovic will be a name to look out for in the future.
Ana Popovic – Blind for Love
Ana Popovic’s latest release finds the Serbian guitarist singer/songwriter leading a talented band through some genres and feels during the 45 minutes, 12 track duration of Blind for Love.
Her guitar playing is now more extensive, but dynamically diverse than it was, with tones that are reminiscent of Robert Cray during album opener ‘Nothing Personal’ or the wah-wah infused, Hendrix vibe of ‘Wrong Woman’.
A talented slide guitarist, this side of Popovic’s sound is explored during the KT Tunstall like acoustic guitar driven ‘Steal me Away’ while wah wah and slide provide a strong sound during ‘Putting out the APB’ which will be a future live favourite. A popular live draw, with Youtube and her live DVD showing that she is more than capable of holding her own in front of a live crowd.
Other genres are touched upon, from the Jazz like the title track, to the straight-ahead blues of ‘Need your love’ and ‘Blues for M’. ‘More Real’ has an atmospheric slide guitar and keyboard backing, with much added by the gospel singers in her backing band.
The marketing team has partly focused on Popovic’s good looks in the packaging, but she is more than a pretty face, as the contents of this disc show.
In the same way that I don’t trust
people who don’t like Simon and Garfunkel,
I don’t trust people who compare themselves to Marmite.
That whole you either love me, or you hate me thing.
I hate you.
A proper Marmite person would be brown,
have a problem with yeast,
and live in a small, darkened jar in the cupboard.
CD Review – Andy Twyman – Chickenbrain – One Man Band Blues
The one-man band Andy Twyman has produced a set of his own songs and covers on his first release, Chickenbone.
Going for the same lo-fi shtick used by such performers as Seasick Steve, he has stripped the blues back to their foundations. A homely voice is mixed in with raw sounding guitars, and percussion to give a sound that is full, and impressive. Using a myriad of different guitar techniques, from slide to expert fingerpicking, the record makes a refreshing change from blues where it is polished to within an inch of its life.
His own songs, such as ‘Chickenbrain’, ‘Struck by Lightnin’’ and Claudia’ show a pleasing grasp with song-writing and arrangements for a performer he seems only in his twenties, although the cover images come across as being self-consciously contrived, rather than authentic.
He also bravely covers such songs as ‘Smokestack Lightning’ ‘My Babe’, ‘Champagne and Reefer’ and Mr Johnson’s ‘Terraplane Blues’, but the youth of his voice is really revealed here.
A few live gigs and time will roughen up his voice, but this is one album that promises much from a new figure.
and time to make some changes.
The sunrise over Arthur’s Seat.
The Iron Bru cans lined up on the railings.
All the makeup, the tears, the unoccupied seats.
Something is different this week, everyone else is moving on, and I have to do the same. The thought of not moving, of becoming stagnant, is a waste of my time, my life, my talent.
So the search will begin, for a new job, a new career, a new co-pilot to help with the navigation, a new reason to wear a smile and to be happy again, at least for a while.
Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets – She Knocks me out
This reissue is the latest from the Black-Top Records vaults and finds a blues band in good form.
Although it is released under Funderburgh’s name, he is really only one of 5 on the discs. His guitar playing does not draw attention to itself, sitting neatly amongst band arrangements of staples from the blues catalogue.
Songs by stalwarts such as Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon and Little Milton take the Lion’s share of the disc, with only three originals written by band members. Title track ‘She knocks me out’ is a retread of the music to ‘Great ball of Fire’ and is written by the group’s vocalist Darrell Nuisch, ‘Two for Pete’ is a boogie-woogie piano solo written by the band’s keyboard player Doug Rynack, whilst ‘Is there something inside you?’ by Nulisch takes more influence from early 1950’s rock and roll ballads than it does from the blues.
The band does nothing really new with the arrangements of these songs. Sonny Boy Williamson’s ‘Your Funeral and My Trial takes the original and simply plays it on electric instruments. James Moore’s ‘Gonna keep what I’ve got’ is a simply rave-up, featuring a harmonica solo from Darrell Nullisch, while James A Lane’s ‘Goin’ Away’ only ups the original’s tempo by a small fraction.
This is a good album, but it really brings nothing new to the table.