Imelda May: Mayhem

Third album from Jeff Beck- endorsed rockabilly Queen.

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A decade on the circuit and beneath the retro stylings Imelda May has established herself as a performer of panache and writer of substance.

The potential suggested on her previous albums No Turning Back and 2008’s fiesty Love Tattoo is made good on Mayhem. May’s natural exuberance, winning character and gutsy but measured vocals have a lot to do with it. But so too does a red hot band lead by husband guitarist Darrel Higham, the throbbing drum/bass axis propels Higham’s tremolo rich runs while trumpeter David Priseman adds swells of exotic Mexicali and New Orleans flavours.

Most rewardingly Imelda’s songs give rockabilly, a genre too easily consigned to archival novelty status, a timely make over for the modern age. The dynamically charged, lyrically sparkling single Psycho leads the way while the title track’s invitation to abandonment proves irresistible. Swaggering playfulness is matched to sophisticated arrangements with such consummate ease that the final Tainted Love cover seems like a puzzling underachievement.

But overall Mayhem suggests a path from cult favourite to major breakthrough is on the cards. Not so crazy after all these years.

Gavin Martin

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.