Last week we got an email in our inbox from a very lovely lady named Kate, praising what we do with the website and the Beagle Sessions. Along with the praises there was a press release about a band that I never heard of. She asked me to read it and listen to the tunes if I had the time. At that moment it hit me, “oh fuck, this girl is being so nice to us, what if this band sucks? I don’t want to be the one to tell her, ah fuck me!!!!” But don’t be fooled, Kate was not just looking for a cheap way to give some crappy band some media attention. She knew what she was doing, she knew the band was good, real good, and I knew it after just one song. Thank you Kate!
The album opens with the 1930’s jazz song “I lost my gal from Memphis”. The song was originally composed by Peter De Rose, with lyrics by Charlie Tobias. Rollie and his boys give the song a small make-over with tremendous respect to the original wich ends up in a fun swinger. It puts a smile on your face and makes you want to dance with a pretty lady.
For the next song Rollie and his band slow it way down with the Charlie Patton classic “Elder Green Blues”. Where in the Patton version you hear a violin, I’m damn sure these guys used an accordion and it sounds just perfect. It adds to the sadness of the song. After the instrumental “Michigan Stomp” (an original I think) we head over to the traditional “Satan your kingdom must come down”, this song is best known in the Robert Plant version but I have to say I like this one better. It’s darker, more intense, you can feel something lurking in the dark and those minimal jazzy drum strokes combined with the controlled feedback make it one hell of a song!
We pick up the pace again with another original called “Speakeasy Rag”, it’s again an instrumental song in wich the bands shows how good they actually can play and control their instruments. Check out this video and judge for yourself. I was impressed.
After a little intermesso on organ we come to another 1930’s popular swinger named “It ain’t right”, first recorded by Stuff Smith. Again the violin is missing like in the first recording, but what the boys do with the song makes up that feeling in a heartbeat. There’s something in Rollie’s singing style, he swallows the last letters of most words he sings, this would be something that would bother me with every other singer, but it works for him. Is it just the way he talks? I don’t know, but it sounds just right and makes this song even better. I included the video for this song at the end of the review, check it out!
“KC Moan” by the Memphis Jug Band is up next. By now I was wondering… “These guys play all covers, well most of the songs… I don’t like cover bands, I hate cover bands… Why am I doing a review for a fucking cover band?” You know why? Because they play them so good and with so much respect it doesn’t feel like it’s a cover. And they don’t play covers if you think about it, they play a song recorded before by an other artist in a time long gone. They are passing these songs on to the next generation, they are paying an homage to these old blues and jazz legends and I respect them for doing so.
The next homage is “James Alley Blues”, recorded by Richard ‘Rabbit’ Brown in New Orleans on march 11th in 1927. It was a sad song back then, it still is now. While Mister Brown’s version is very slow, Rollie and his boys go for a more up tempo version, but it doesn’t take the “sad” out and that’s how it is to be.
The last song on the record is “Done Got Old” by David “Junior” Kimbrough. It’s the youngest song on the album apart from the originals and again the band nails it. Dirty, fast blues with a country feel this time and with awesome hand-claps in the background and amazing picking by Rollie.
I would call this album a history lesson that every person who likes blues, Jazz, roots or whatever “rock” music should listen to. I got to know so many great and long forgotten songs and artists while listening to these tunes. Is it original? No! Is it good? Hell yeah! Am I going to look different now upon cover bands? NO! Fuck them! Unless they do it like this, pay homage and don’t take the easy way out.
Picture by Peter Smith