MICKEY JUPP – Up Snakes, Down Ladders (Conquest Music)

Up Snakes Down LaddersBack in the 70s, it seemed that Jupp was set to become a household name alongside fellow pub rock stalwarts such as Nick Lowe and Dr Feelgood. Sadly, despite major label releases via Bell, A&M, Chrysalis and Stiff, it was not to be and, disillusioned with the business and with a distrust of authority and ambivalent attitude to fame, he essentially retired from public view while continuing to make private recordings at his cottage in the Eskdale village of Boot. Having amassed over 2650 songs, he’s been persuaded to make these now remastered tracks available via Conquest Records, Up Snakes, Down Ladders being the first volume of The Boot Legacy. It opens, then, with the title track from the recent EP, pumping the ivories for ‘I’d Love To Boogie’ the sort of thing you might expect to find on a best of Jerry Lee Lewis, giving way to the laid back funky groove title track and the keyboards-led country swing of ‘Why Don’t You Don’t?’ with its thoughts of George and Willie.

A Stonesy blues riff, complete with opening cowbell, drives the adultery-veined ‘Like You Don’t Love Him’, taking the burn down for the reflective introspection of ‘Man In The Mirror’ with its soul spine, rolling drum rhythm and spare keyboard trills while ‘Loving The Wrong Girl’ is a more relaxed saloon bar ballad for drowning sorrows in a beer glass. On a similar note, it’s back then to the boogie with the New Orleans barroom swing of ‘Learning To Swim’, hitting the midway mark with ‘The Nature Of The Beast’, an autobiographically-based musing on older men falling for younger girls that, speaking of the heartaches that ensue, is nowhere as sleazy as it sounds.

The second half opens back in Jerry Lee mode with ‘Get Hot’ and proceeds to deliver a further solid collection of  no less engaging, toe tapping  rhythm and blues and rock n roll,  sliding from the classic styled ‘Bad News Can Travel Slow’ and the R&B strutting’ ‘Lonely Boy’ to the call and response country blues shuffle  ‘I Threw Myself At You (And I Missed)’ and the train time swagger of ‘The Blues Ain’t What They Used To Be’.  It ends with, first, the standout countrified story-song ‘The Ballad Of Tutford Darnell’ (an anagram of Dartford Tunnel) tale of a never was that surely has an autobiographical heart, and finally, recorded back in 1975, the stripped back, folksy ‘Pilot’ with its theme of lost love.

Almost sixty years on, Jupp’s voice has lost none of its power and colour, nor have his songwriting or musicianship skills dimmed with time. By rights, these should be part of a substantial best of legacy rather than lost diamonds finally being unearthed. There’s still time.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website: www.mickeyjupp.se/ / www.facebook.com/MickeyJuppMusic

‘I’d Love To Boogie’ – official video: