I could well be wrong, but I don’t think that Lewes (pronounced Lewis) near Brighton is the hometown of Judy Sings The Blues…no, this one hails from Lewes, pronounced the same as its namesake, in Delaware and is a blues-rock band that injects swathes of funk into the mix. All of the members are established musicians and have come together as a live band and, with a few helpers, now have their debut album on release. Called Born A Sinner, they deliver eight originals and two covers with a style and polish that should herald a bright future.
The album opens with the funky My Name Ain’t Baby characterised by a neat, clipped guitar and Judy’s warm, powerful voice. The sax helps with the sophisticated backing as the verses unfold…it is a little light for me, but played impeccably with great guitar behind the sax solo. Until That Sucker’s Dead follows a similar path as the slower but still funky melody cuts in…this time the keys cut a lovely swathe while the guitar has some neat runs over the clever lyrics. Special mention for the drums and bass on this one; the rapid snare/cymbal interplay is entertaining in itself and the bass line may be low in the mix but it is still worth listening out for. The highlight though, is the guitar solo with just the right amount of wah emphasis as most strings and frets are explored. Next up is song that always entrances even though it is so overworked that it, usually leaves me cold. However, here the band does a rework of the Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell standard Fever. Their take is slowed and the band are restrained and yet complex; the sax solo is similarly held back to keep in with the feel of the whole thing. Judy also keeps the vocals at just the right pitch and, against the numerous versions (the original Little Willie John version is still the best but later covers include Elvis Presley, Christina Aguilera and Madonna to name but a few) most have done a less captivating attempt than this remarkable effort. The pace and ambiance change dramatically for the much rockier I Like The Way…the background riff is very R’n’B a la Dr Feelgood or JSTaylor, and the piano barrels away nicely, and then we get a true rock guitar solo of a high quality that has touches SRV about it, and is revisited at the end. Title track, Born A Sinner, starts as if we were Sitting at the Dock of the Bay, but it quickly, courtesy of Judy’s crystalline vocals, the bass/drum backline and the sax honking slyly, turns it into a slightly jazzy gospel song. Tricks is next and takes us into an amalgam of pop and rock as the phased vocals and guitar set the scene with a simple melody. The purposely overdriven guitar sound on the solo, and the journey to the fade, lifts it from an also ran into a strong song that could have been written after listening to Percy Plant’s first solo album. Help Me is the one I will return to most often as it has the Hammond sound and wah’d guitar riff that took me immediately to Purple’s third album…except Judy sounds a bit livelier than Rod Evans! OK, it’s not as heavy as Bird Has Flown, but it has a funky rock feel that works very well. Dirty Girl is out and out rock with more overdriven guitar, honking sax and a great riff. The lyrics are either funny clever or funny awkward, depending on what you think Judy’s message is…and depending if the pearls in the necklace she mentions come from an oyster! The guitar playing over the last 50 seconds or so is worth the wait. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not opens with neat bass and keys before the vocals make this song Judy’s rather than This Time Around with sax…it is actually a song with tremendous depth and emotions come flooding through her voice and are brilliantly echoed by what should be an incongruous heavy rock chord. The sax solo is good, but it cried out for the keys/guitar prominence to have been extended as, again, in the background the playing is exceptional. Final track is the classic Sinner’s Prayer, written by Lloyd C. Glenn & Lowell Fulson and released by Fulson in 1950. It gets a well thought out transformation from the piano led original and makes it a heavy blues-rock masterpiece. The sax does detract rather than add in my mind, but if you’re going to take a classic and give it a modern edge, this is a damn good example of how to do it. The guitar makes a song like this and the riff and solos are as good as you’ll get anywhere.
I thoroughly enjoyed the album and, as a live outfit, I would bet they are incendiary especially in their ‘normal’ four-piece set up. This is a decent slice of blues-rock with a dose of funk and jazz thrown in…they do excel on the more bluesy aspects with Help Me and the Sinners Prayer cover being worth the entry fee. Give them a listen and I think that, like me, you will enjoy the ride and look forward to their next release.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- My Name Ain’t Baby
- Until That Sucker’s Dead
- Fever (Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell)
- I Like The Way
- Born A Sinner
- Help Me
- Dirty Girl
- He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
- Sinner’s Prayer (Lowell Fulson and Lloyd C Glen)
Judy Mangini: vocals, percussion
Eric Zoeckler: guitar
Carl Thompson: bass
James Sudimak: drums
Cody Leavel: saxophone
Dan Long: keyboards
Ken Windle: lead guitar on Help Me
Lin Doughten: lead guitar on Fever, Born A Sinner and Tricks