Blues Round-up: November 2011

Henry Yates on new releases from Popa Chubby, Henry Parker & His Magical World, Roadhouse, Michael Powers and Moreland & Arbuckle

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Popa Chubby: Back To New York City

As the epicentre of post-millennial sewn-on pseudo-cool, New York has a lot to answer for. Thankfully it also has Ted Horowitz (aka Popa Chubby), a bona fide alumni of the Big Apple’s rotten core, who dragged himself from Bronx roots and a teenage smack habit, busked the subway between kickings from the NYPD, and would eat the thrift-store hipsters for breakfast (possibly literally). Horowitz skirted the UK radar with his last two albums, but this one is better, tightening the screws on his bar-room power blues. As implied, Chubby’s subject is frequently his home town, and his black-comic couplets are caustic: ‘no more pimps, no more whores, just wax museums and retail stores,’ he snipes of 42nd Street on the title track, in a vocal somewhere between operatic and pure evil. But it’s the guitar work that really kicks the door down, with a touch and phrasing on She Loves Everybody But Me that give credibility to his claim that “you can’t play the blues until you’ve suffered life”. Horowitz’s pain is our gain. (710)

Henry Parker And His Magical World: Fire Burns My Soul

The buzz is deafening, but Henry Parker only sporadically pulls a rabbit out of the hat. When chops and tunes collide – as on the prime-time power blues of the title track – the 18-year-old seems a good bet, but the odd tune is derivative, and What Did You Think I’d Say a steal from Dylan’s Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You. Keep your eye on him. (610)

Roadhouse: Dark Angel

Roadhouse’s sleeve-shots look a little odd, with a line-up built on the bedrock of four grizzled gigsters and spiced up with a trio of glamour-puss female singers in black strappy dresses. It’s a decent blend in practice, though, and gives a sense of sweet’n’sour to superior stuff like Swamp Girl. They’re probably great live, but without the visuals, a few of the fairly traditional tracks feel bafflingly long. (510)

Michael Powers: Revolutionary Boogie

Revolutionary Boogie is more the latter than the former, with grooves like Bleecker Street Strut not doing much that you haven’t heard before, but Powers’s reliable vocal and always excellent guitar work hides their limitations. Pushing 60, it’s unlikely that the former sideman will now change the world, but he can still start one hell of a party. (610)

Moreland & Arbuckle: Just A Dream

If the music press tastemakers could genetically engineer a blues act à la Weird Science, they’d probably sound a bit like this scratchy-arsed duo, who channel the Delta via the garage, wheeze into thrift-store harmonicas, and apply vocals that sound like a grizzly bear coughing up a fuzz box. We think Moreland & Arbuckle are killer. But then we would say that. (710)

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.