Blues Round-up: January 2012

Henry Yates on new releases from Savoy Brown, Grainne Duffy, Liam Tarpey, JJ Grey & Mofro and Louisiana Red

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Savoy Brown: Voodoo Moon

The last time this writer encountered Savoy Brown guitarist and mainstay Kim Simmonds – around the time of 2007’s decidedly so-so Steel album – he sounded like a man with shifting priorities, dabbling as he was in acoustic music and conceptual art, and stressing that: “I’m trying to be successful at being a family man now, because I wasn’t earlier”. Thankfully for all of us, Voodoo Moon relocates his raison d’être, via a set of amped-up rockers that suggest there’s more lead in the old guitarist’s pencil than he’s been letting on. Admittedly, it’s hardly a sea-change. Back in the day, the Savoy sound charmed Uncle Sam but alienated the home market somewhat, and this album may revive the trend, with vocalist Joe Whiting wearing the Big Apple on his sleeve and a brass section jostling with choppy guitar licks for elbow room in the mix. At times, it can be a little steady, but when Simmonds loses his shit on She’s Got The Heat, the old lags prove they still have a few new tricks lurking in the locker. Not bad for album No.33. (810)

Grainne Duffy: Test Of Time

In 2008, the debut album from an unsigned Irish ingenue drew polite applause in the blues column. Grainne Duffy has since exploded (she graced the cover of The Sunday Times Culture section this year), and it’s obvious why: classic hooks, high cheekbones, a bad-girl voicebox and a whiff of Bonnie Raitt. She’s breezier than we remember, but cuts like Rockin’ Rolling Stone suggest she’s far from sold-out. (710)

Liam Tarpey: Warm Up My Bones

The kids are alright, and Liam Tarpey is one of the better ones, leading a London-based power trio who have risen above the flotsam in less than a year. His slow blues workouts can drag, and for now his guitar prowess is outgunning the vocal, but when he tears into Lorraine, there’s a confidence that suggests the lack of a label won’t last. Consider our bones warmed. (610)

JJ Grey & Mofro: Live: Brighter Days

Last year’s Georgia Warhorse left this reviewer feeling a tad lukewarm, but Grey’s sweaty swamp blues has a mule’s kick on this subsequent live CD/DVD set. His charisma carries both sides of the coin, from the roof-raising stomp through Country Ghetto to the redneck patter of the documentary, and you sense his real challenge will be to bottle this on the next studio album. (710)

Louisiana Red: Memphis Mojo

Back To The Black Bayou was raw, but Louisiana Red and protégé Little Victor’s sequel is so rough around the edges it makes Seasick Steve sound like Bon Jovi. With wonky harmonies and bum notes a go-go, the sloppiness can get just a trifle wearing, and Victor is stretching it by crediting himself as ‘producer’. But when this pair start cooking, they bleed authenticity from most every pore. (610)

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.