BLUES TRAVELER – SUZIE CRACKS the WHIP

BLUES TRAVELER SUZIE CRACKS the WHIPBlues Travelers loose bluesy sound can’t always give away their Canadian origins, but I believe they have managed to reflect the themes of a continent in their wide open tunes. The 2012 offering, Suzie Cracks the Whip moves away from the Californian rock of the previous releases like North Hollywood Shootout and gives us a much softer sound with some catchy pop hooks. However, some of new material was familiar and comparisons could be drawn to earlier work which was strongest on the track Big City Girls. Current line-up features: John Popper (vocals, harmonica), Chan Kinchla (guitars), Tad Kinchla (bass), Ben Wilson (keyboards) and Brendan Hill (drums, percussion).

Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith co-penned four tunes with various members of the band, namely the pop-blues rocker Recognize My Friend, and the organ fueled Devil in the Details, the optimistic jam Things Are Looking Up and the front porch folksy Love Is Everything (That I Describe).

Best of the batch for me was the frantic Cover Me and Devil in the Details with its funky, flirty tinge. All in all, the album could be described as fun set of songs with a number of nice touches like the extra female vocals on I Don’t Wanna Go (feat. Crystal Bowersox). While not their best stuff, it may well be the best effort for a while. L.C. Pryce

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Artist’s website: http://www.bluestraveler.com/

MARTIN HARLEY – Mojo Fix – 60/20 Records 7 21762 97054 6

MojoFixMartin Harley plays guitar. All sorts of guitar: acoustic, lap slide, Weissenborn, you name it. He also plays harmonica and stylophone but a man’s got to have a hobby, right? Mojo Fix is his fifth album, three of them released as The Martin Harley Band.

It’s also something of a departure. Martin has moved from the Surrey delta to Texas to write and record with producer Bob Parr, his wife Claire and a distinguished cast of musicians. His style of Americana ranges from the blues’n’boogie of the title track to a gentle ballad like ‘Treading Water’. In fact the album switches moods at a bewildering rate. It opens with the title track and distorted vocals reminiscent of Tom Waits’ megaphone style with just drums and bass in support, a style repeated in the closing ‘Mean Old City’. ‘Cardboard King’ is one the record’s production numbers with a string quartet and a decidedly Slambovian feel. ‘Wrecking Ball’ is another rocker with violin and brass and ‘Rum Shack’ has the feel of a thirties’ tune brought into the 21st century and roughed up a bit.

Mojo Fix is an album that I enjoy more and more each time I listen to it. It feels like a square peg in the round hole of the music business and that’s great. Martin is touring extensively in the UK in March and that has to be a good night out. 

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: https://www.facebook.com/martinharleymusic/

JIM MORAY – Skulk (NIBL013)

Perhaps its Moray’s numerous tales of brushes with death on previous recordings that inspired him to use the collective noun for foxes ‘Skulk’ as the title of his latest CD. Or maybe you’ve just seen the series “Whitechapel” on TV? Whatever the reason, his opening choice of song “The Captain’s Apprentice” is a brooding piece of work that would settle comfortably alongside any recording by June Tabor and I certainly applaud the unsettling choice of piano chords on a stark background of saxophone used for its texture rather than as a melody. This really is an unpretentious, Gothic piece of dramatic theatre that wouldn’t sound out of place as the soundtrack to a David Lynch or David Cronenberg movie and will doubtless send shivers down the spine of anyone who purports to have a soul. For this track alone I’d personally give the album a ten but than that would be to dismiss this young man’s ability to turn his hand to more or less any genre of music he cares to utilise for his excursions. He makes no bones that the ‘traditional’ emphasis of his outpourings is his main preference of ingredient but in using a heady mixture of jazz, rock and classical the scatter-gun approach will hopefully expand the confines an audience made-up of primarily ‘folk’ music enthusiasts. This album may not be to everyone’s taste; perhaps a little too maudlin for most but I urge you to think again because any ‘craftsman’ that can make you go straight to your computer to check out the original version of Anais Mitchell’s (www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IOeGyD4zUA) “If It’s True” has done his job superbly well. I’d finally like to credit the tremendous sleeve photos of Sorrel The Fox (held with loving care by Moray) taken by the ever imaginative David Angel. If you’re an animal lover or just love good music you’ll love this recording.

PETE FYFE

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“Already, one of the great album releases of 2012!” folking.com