From the depths of Surrey, with no delta nearby, J Lee Barratt still proves that he has a deep understanding of the blues as he and his band, J Lee and the Hoodoo Skulls, release their second album called Beggars Soul. This is the follow up to 2019’s Black Moon release which was very well received and, despite the seeming incongruity, they supported Shakin’ Stevens on his ‘All The Hits And More’ tour…not so incongruous when you discover that Mr Stevens is J’s Dad! That support slot wasn’t nepotism – this band can play.
I’m delighted to say that the new album (as with the debut) has grown from the bluesier side of the r’n’b roots that Shaky mined so successfully and has a weight, depth and maturity that many bands can only dream of.
Opening with the field approach of Ain’t No Way, J Lee shows he has the pipes, as they say, and it grows melodically to a brass laden conclusion with the guitar and piano lightening the background. Baby Blue is next, for me anyway, and the riff and Hammond give this some weight as the vocals fit neatly…even the odd inherited “who-hoo and hootchie-coo” isn’t out of place. This is infectious and only lacked a guitar solo to lift it further. Baby Come Home has a lovely, dirty bass intro that reminds me of Nazareth’s ode to the blues, Woke Up This Morning. More join in choruses and, hoorah! a short guitar solo with great phrasing, picked nicely.
The title track, Beggar’s Soul, sounds like T Rex got the heavy blues…a damn good song, with a well-crafted guitar solo…too short! J Lee pitches his vocals nicely once again as he veers from nice to snarl and the multi-tracking is very well done. Don’t Bother Me is another example of how these guys can take something seemingly simple and turn it into a melodic rock song. A commercial sound pervades here, but in a good way like the 70s rock hit singles had that bounce and irresistible structure. Let Your Hair Down is another T Rex sounding bop-along rock song…no complaints here as they do it so well and the slide solo is genius as it was unexpected but perfectly executed…too short!
Get Over You suggests that 70s rock single feel again but piles such neat bass/drum/guitar chord work into it that it exceeds expectations…the solo is sparse, short but effective. Highway is my favourite, as the field song with acoustic this time returns…seriously atmospheric with J Lee’s best vocal yet: feeling, expression and clear enunciation and acoustic slide brings the same qualities…great stuff.
Need You So Bad heads toward the 50s and 60s as Dad’s sort of song unfolds cleverly- not my favourite but so very well done.
Baby Don’t Sing The Blues wraps it up with feet tapping firmly in 50s rock and roll as the bass sounds tuned to emulate an upright and the lead is perfectly toned for the period…in short, as they would say in those days (apparently) it’s a blast.
Ten songs, none of which break four minutes, and the mix of blues, glam, rock, rock and roll and, above all else, fun, make this a hugely enjoyable album.
Beggars soul is released on CD and the usual platforms on June 25th.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – A wonderful album that will always lift the spirits and put a smile on your face.
1. Baby Blue
2. Beggar’s Soul
3. Let Your Hair Down
4. Come Home
6. Need You So Bad
7. Don’t Bother Me
8. Get Over You
9. Ain’t No Way
10. Baby Don’t Sing The Blues (Lockdown Track)
J Lee: vocals
Harun Koch: guitars
Wayne Riches: drums
Mike Hartnett: bass
Recorded at The Old Chapel Studio, Chichester
(iTunes came up with the electric guitar wizardry of JB Hutto with Please Help which shows his slide skills. Released in 1966, it may not have seen the acclaim of the bluesmen of the time, but could still teach them a thing or two.)