Herbal Remedy provides the cure in Land Of The Livin’

When I hear the phrase ‘herbal remedy’, my somewhat strange thought patterns conjure up Bill and Ben’s rather bizarre companion who said only one word and is surely the reason that the two flowerpot men were incapable of cohesive speech…”flob-a-lob-a-lob-little weed”.

There is a specific plant that is relevant here, however, and that is Achillea millefolium known as Old Mans Baccie in my native County Durham. If you then pronounce the ‘old’ as it should be (‘Auld’) you get the blues duo that has been entertaining audiences with their original and cover sets in the land of my courting as well as three commendable CDs. (Look ‘em up here on Bluesdoodles for more information). Add in a bass player who also happens to present a blues show on South Durham’s premier radio station, mix in a drummer who plays across the genres, and can turn his hand to most instruments as well as being a noted technician and soundman and we have an electrified Baccie that go under the moniker of Herbal Remedy, hence my burblings at the start of this review. This group of musicians have banded (pun intended) together and revisited some of Baccie’s songs as well as more original Curtis compositions that, as usual, are shot through with humour and acute observation…as I hinted, the main difference is that it is a full band and they have gone electric on the guitars rather than their more regular acoustic outings.

On to the music: the latest CD is called Land of the Livin’ and opens with a slice of rock’n’roll that would be at home in the ice cream parlours that were prevalent in the 50s and 60s. It is really well constructed and the slide inflections and solo are great. It borders on rockabilly too but it is, above all else, fun and as with all of Davey’s compositions, the lyrics are darkly humourous with a real-world message. The title track, Land of the Livin’ has Hendrix in its DNA but utilises more great slide over the basic riff. The solos are picked and slide that somehow bring a smile to your face…as if they are telling the jokes through the strings and then we get cowbell too…always a bonus! Shotgun Blues is more subtle as we get a lovely lilting true blues that seems to have a touch of the Hollis’s about it until the couple in question end up in the barn. It is another irresistible song that just carries you along and the picking is very Dadi. Dead Man’s Shoes is suitably slower with glistening slide illuminating the darkness of the Grim Reaper’s arrival and the subsequent funeral…I said the humour was dark.

Stomping Ground ups the tempo with a Dance With The Devil kind of drum intro and then a neat bass line before acoustic and electric strumming evokes The Stones and their precursors, especially when the harp interjects. The mix is a little strange but the slide solos make up for it: especially the second one. Lifetime Guarantee is country blues with the train track snare and picking but the double and single entendres that would make Benny Hill blush refer not to a train but to a car and its analogies…it is still marvellously entertaining and the slide solos are just as much fun. Church of Lost Souls was powerful as an acoustic on the CD of the same name but here with the plaintive slide, it takes on a new persona. It does retain the acoustic backing so that the message isn’t diluted although at times it is a bit too Petty for me. Lunatic Blues is a faster shuffle with a fuzzed riff giving a suitably manic feel while addressing the modern trend for ‘garage blues’ with its familiar base (Blackhall Cherry perhaps?) The solos are great though and should have been longer.

Full House is Milk and Alcohol with slide, a different attitude and slinky slide. The intelligent solo is a real highlight, albeit way too short. The final track is, suitably, called Closing Time and inevitably refers to the end of the night in all the senses of that phrase. It has a Celtic (or Northumbrian) lilt courtesy of the delightful fiddle from Helen Armstrong. Not my favourite instrument but here Helen has imbued it with a touch and timbre usually lacking in this setting.

As with all of their output, if you acknowledge the tongue-in-cheek approach and join in with the huge amount of fun they are obviously having, then this is another thoroughly enjoyable release from the Seaham troubadours…and if you get to see them live, you’re assured of a great night of music that will always bring a smile to your face.

(Fumbled fingers time and, as I hit the track before this album on iTunes, I was treated to the relatively ignored Henry Townsend doing brilliant blues from 1929 with his Poor Man Blues.)

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Money’s Gone
  2. Land Of The Livin’
  3. Shotgun Blues
  4. Dead Man’s Shoes
  5. Stomping Ground
  6. Lifetime Guarantee
  7. Church Of Lost Souls
  8. Lunatic Blues
  9. Full House
  10. Closing Time

All songs written by Davey Curtis


Davey Curtis: guitars

Nick Phillips: guitars

Gary Grainger: bass

John Timney: drums, percussion

Helen Armstrong: fiddle

Produced by John Timney

Herbal Remedy provides the cure in Land Of The Livin’

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