When this dreadful pandemic changed our way of life, one of the hardest hit sectors was our beloved musicians: live performances, particularly as streaming pays a pittance, are the lifeblood and main income for them…no furlough, no income, only a bleak outlook.
The proactive ones set up on the Patreon platform where dedicated fans can gain access to unique products whilst giving much needed income to their favourite artists.
One group of musicians took this route…imagine some of our favoured blues artists teaming up from their lockdown locations and, via the internet, collaborating on new and inspired songs they then performed at home and stitched together to release ten tracks of blues of every variety. Who are these innovators? Well, one look at the list of musicians below and you will see that it’s eight of the best the genre has to offer. They decided to call themselves Birdmens which, although a plural confusion, seems apt, as is the title of Lockdown Loaded. Go on, admit it…this is a lineup made in blues heaven and, according to their sums, brings 198 years of experience together. For me is certainly one positive thing to come out of this horrendous lurgy situation.
The music they produced proved so popular thanks, in part, to fans spreading the word that they have made it available in multiple formats for our delectation. ( Bluesdoodles was one of the prominent spreaders of the news and gets a well-deserved mention on the CD notes…take a bow Liz!)
The whole ethos and loose but professional of the album is summed with the superb opener, Cat Drugged Up. (Not about a cat on drugs…but what it dragged up and Siegal’s vocals are on point as cliches abound to explain how the “situation is all f*cked up”. A great blues stomp with great instrumentation throughout, although no solo!
Hipbone is next and brings harp, piano guitars and some serious percussion to bear on this funky little blues. The lyrics are lighter and actually very clever and funny too with Armor and Siegal in harmony. Star keeps that tinge of funk with wha’d guitar and piano and harp interjecting effectively throughout. Even the semi-rapped vocal in the middle cannot detract from this slice of fun.
Sheriff is all Wild West lyrically but musically it is a superb evocation of 60s rock a la Yardbirds etc. but, yet again, the instrumentation is so damnably clever it needs listening to repeatedly. There is an organ solo behind the closing chorus and fade that deserved more….like being higher in the mix…and longer. Heal Thyself is 60s soul vocally with lovely swirling keys; although the brilliant bassline and an understated but excellent guitar solo are the highlight for me. It’s Inconvenient is next, and is a measured piece of understatement about various situations going badly wrong…over a delicious key/guitar-led funky piece of blues with the added bonus of a slinky organ solo.
Holler moves to pure blues and is simply brilliant…harp and guitar underpinned by tinkling piano may follow some well-known tropes but it is still fresh and, did I say, brilliant! Diggin’ That Rut is funk like James Brown was a contributor while the guitars take it to another level and the bass is again spot on…there’s some great guitar playing a bit deep in the mix…so listen closely. What’s The Name has yet another great bass line, piano and guitars all hiding behind the main melody and (hurrah!) a superb slide guitar solo. Cover It Up is sort of countrified to begin with, but then the blues bite to make it successful with its clever melodies and multiple guitar tracking.
The closing track, Birdmens, is classic acoustic backed with gospel(ish) organ and reveals a bit about the collective name perhaps…”This ain’t Alcatraz baby, we’re the last of the last birdmen”; or maybe I’m remembering the Burt Lancaster film differently?
I implore you to listen to all of this many, many times because each listen will reveal more in the instrumentation every time as the complexity unveils such sharp touched that it becomes even harder to believe it was recorded remotely…sure, the sound could perhaps have been a bit more refined, but this is a remarkable record (pun intended) of the times we are enduring and, if these guys make money, then maybe they’ll do it again…please.
My only complaint is that all of the tracks are way too short!
Bluesdoodles rating: a Stupendous and essential addition to any collection as well as a pertinent statement of the time we’re living in.
Tracklisting / (Composers)
1. Cat Drugged Up (Doherty /Siegal)
2. Hipbone (Amor /Doherty)
3. Star (Amor /Doherty)
4. Sheriff (Doherty /Fisk)
5. Heal Thyself (Doherty /Siegal)
6. It’s Inconvenient (Amor /Fridzema)
7. Holler (Siegal)
8. Diggin’ That Rut (Doherty /Siegal)
9. What’s The Name (Amor /Doherty)
10. Cover It Up (Amor /Doherty)
11. Birdmens (Amor /Siegal)
Jon Amor [Lead & Backing Vocals / Lead & Rhythm Guitars]
Rob Barry [Bass Guitars]
Dave Doherty [Lead & Rhythm Guitars / Backing Vocals / Percussion]
Joel Fisk [Lead & Rhythm Guitars / Backing Vocals]
Bob Fridzema [Keyboards]
Jonny Henderson [Keyboards]
Giles King [Harmonica]
Ian Siegal [Lead & Backing Vocals / Lead & Rhythm Guitars]
(The iTunes run on brought me a blast from the metallic past as I was regaled by Bitches Sin and their take on NWOBHM in 1980…one of the almost, nearly but not quite quality bands of that era.)