So, we reach 2018 and what better way to kick-start the New Year than with a dose of high energy, punky blues/rock. Enter New York 5 piece, all-girl powerhouse Jane Lee Hooker, who kicked the scene door down with 2016 debut album ‘No B’, a collection of blues covers done with atypical New York grit and punk attitude. With former members of Nashville Pussy in the ranks, it’s no surprise then that follow up ‘Spiritus’ continues with that same East Coast swagger.
Opener ‘How Ya Doin’ is a front row, in your face, high energy insight into what Jane Lee Hooker do best – a kick-ass live show. Immediately striking are the astonishing vocals of lead singer Dana ‘Danger’ Athens, made even more impressive by the obvious live-feel recording of Spiritus. Production is raw, real and honest throughout this and all other tracks on the album. Forget finesse, forget technique, forget polish. Think punk attitude, think Brooklyn sleaze, think garage band-gang on a mission. A nod to Mick and Keef here, a wink to rock and roll rebellion there.
Spiritus manages to steal the infectious boogie from band name inspiration John on stand out tracks ‘Black Rat’ and ‘Be My Baby’. The latter would be a radio favourite if it were trimmed down to the catchy chorus and hooks sans the unnecessaries. In a Blues/rock world full of pedal board heroes and perfection we tend to forget some of the best songs are just attitude and adrenaline. Perhaps with a ‘one-eye-on-radio’ producer, JLH could have aimed more of this ten song set at commerciality. You get the feeling however that Spiritus is a ‘ this is how we would be live’ record, a token of the no doubt blistering live show. You’re not here to admire lyrical prowess or originality, you’re here to sweat, scream, pump fist and pogo.
Things do get more chilled with gospel-tinged ‘How Bright The Moon’. Dana takes us to church with a heartfelt vocal, perhaps the highlight album vocal, which sets up this piano-led breather ballad as a welcome interlude. No rest for the wicked though as the same church has its roof blown off by ‘Turn On Your Love Light’, evoking memories of cartwheeling Jake and Elwood captivated by the Reverend Cleophus James in the Blues Brothers movie.
The final song, ‘The Breeze’ is an as-the-sun-comes-up, sore head, loose slow blues jam; doesn’t really go anywhere other than ’round and ’round the post-party, bottle-strewn club. Self-indulgent, but the perfect remedy for the partied out, spinning and ready to drop.
Lacks originality? Maybe – Lacks technical prowess? Maybe – Lacks direction? Slightly
Who cares, Spiritus is a window to an epic live show, a night of nights, a sweat addled assault on the primal senses. Not to be judged in any other way. Go to a show, buy the album and relive that night over and over with a wry smile.
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- How Ya Doin?
- Gimme That
- Mama Said
- Be My Baby
- Later On
- Black Rat
- Ends Meet
- How Bright
- Turn on Your Love Light
- The Breeze