Archive for May, 2016

From out of Perth comes blues-rocker Matty T Wall, to whom I give a whole bunch of gold stars straight up.

In the petrifying forest of current blues, Wall cuts through with a unique voice. There is much on his new album Blue Skies just familiar enough to satisfy the blues purists, yet plenty different enough to satisfy me and the thousands of blues fans who yearn for a truly new voice in the genre.

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Gold stars first: One – in the sea of Strats and Les Pauls, Wall uses a beautiful white three-pickup Gibson SG which he rings any sound from he wants. It has a throatiness and a sweet chime that works so well with the blues. Two – everyone (including SRV) does Hendrix‘s ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’; on Blue Skies, Wall chooses to cover that tornado-tune’s cooler yet equally gorgeous sister, ‘Voodoo Chile’, his 12-minute version making me wonder why not more blues artists do.

Three – Blue Skies is a completely consistent album of stunning music; a gumbo of most modern styles, all worked up beautifully. Opener ‘Burnin Up Burnin Down’ is a heavy horn-driven Chicago stomper. ‘Am I Wrong’ is Slim Harpo on amphetamine. ‘Love Gone Away’ is the kind of minor-key blues Joe Bonamassa tears up – yet Wall’s soloing here uses much more texture and jazz flavours than mighty Joe.Matty-T-Wall - Album cover

‘Scorcher’ is a virtuoso guitar workout á la SRV’s ‘Rude Mood’, a thrill ride where Wall, like SRV, never seems to run out of energy, or ideas. Great guitar, great vocal too: ‘This Is Real’ is deep-fried slow-funk that has Wall in Robert Cray soul-blues mode.

Title track ‘Blue Skies’ has a country edge that brings to mind the same-named Allman Brothers tune. Wall adds some heavyweight guitar along the way, and a gospel edge. The effect is epic but never overblown.

Recorded in Perth and New York (Wall means business) with a crack band that plays like they mean it, Blue Skies should really be noticed by everyone who is listening out for the good stuff. We will see. I truly hope so.

Published May 2016 on theorangepress.net

 

Three years after their debut, national treasure The Melbourne Ska Orchestra delivers their new album, Sierra Kilo Alpha.

Nicky Bomba‘s thirty-piece ska juggernaut have taken things up a notch with Sierra Kilo Alpha – the sounds of course are still rooted in classic ska but shot through with Cuban, Jamaican and inner-city Melbourne colours. For an album recorded in the winter of 2015, it is pretty damn sunny and hot to trot.

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The snaky, swirling melody of opener ‘Escher’ sets the mission statement – heavy on the horns, beefy on the funk, yet with enough of the dancing lightness of snap-brim ska to get your ass on the floor. Pat Powell‘s knowing vocal – as all across Sierra Kilo Alpha – comes across with a grin and a worldly wink.

Leading single ‘Funkchuck’ is chunky, funky and motors along on a rocksteady groove to where it’s going. ‘Bombay Detective’ opens with sitar-exotica – like so many arrangements here, it suggest a movie-for-your-mind: a thrill-ride thriller, moody, racy, noir.Melb ska orch2

‘Nothing in The Way’ has a circular, snaking riff, like the opener, ‘Escher’ which shows the quiet genius in Bomba’s horn and rhythm arrangements – nothing gets in the way of the groove, yet there is always so much to listen to on the way.

Afro-Cuban flavours sepia ‘Solitary Island Sway’ and ‘Special Thing’ while the largely instrumental ‘Vespa Ska’ has tremolo spaghetti-Western guitar setting the showdown scene. ‘Sly Boots’ (my gold star for next single) is Nutty Boy ska with a gold-plated hook.

The sound is huge and the band is tight; the MSO will be touring with up to 30 players, taking Sierra Kilo Alpha across Australia (prior to going to London and beyond, where they are adored). And as throbbingly vital as this album is, you know their live shows will be through the big-top roof. Don’t miss them.

Published May 2016 on theorangepress.net