It’s curious to find old phrases that I never understood in the first place, being used in the PR around this debut release from the Jersey Swamp Cats. To put it into perspective, I haven’t been fashionable since the 70s when I had long hair and wore 36 inch flared, split-knee loon pants in coordination with my cheesecloth shirt and denim waistcoat…but I never understood words such as “hep”, “hip” or ‘cats”. Hep didn’t register, hip was a joint (of the bony rather than smoky kind) and cats were distinctly feline and not remotely human. So when I listened to this release, I ditched the PR and just listened…and I discovered that what I had was a heady mixture of blues (jump and southern), R’n’B, rockabilly and some good old rock ‘n’ roll.
It was that mix that I listened to with an unbiased and a non-hep cat-like demeanour and, on the opening cover of the Louis Prima song, Jump, Jive and Wail I enjoyed the unbridled enthusiasm and skill of this band. It is what used to be called a dance floor filler and you’ll find the nodding and toe-tapping reflexes cannot be tamed. Guitar and piano take the melody and feed it some Whiskas as it bounces along with aplomb…the guitar solo is nice and fluid and the piano is brilliant…both are totally in sync with the era. Cupcake is more my kind of stuff as this original ahs a taste of Chicago blues about it as the shuffle is punctuated wonderfully by the guitar and the piano in support. It does follow an established template and the call/response bit is bearable, especially as the guitar and piano interplay light the track up. Fats Domino’s Blue Monday is next and they take a classic by the scruff of the neck and make it their own whilst maintaining due deference to Fats. Of course, the vocal isn’t a match, but the rhythm section and the guitar earn forgiveness. We travel to New Orleans next with I don’t Mind as the band lay down a serious rhythm and the sax and trumpet put it deep into the streets of the town with guitar and piano adding tasteful solos. The band takes on the great Albert Collins masterpiece with their version of Too Tired. Fortunately, they stay true to the original but don’t try to copy the style as guitarist Don Leich puts his own spin on the guitar parts very successfully…in fact, the solo is the highlight of the whole album for me, as he puts the blues into the tone and string selections. Dance All Night brings a touch of jazz to the blues with the horns providing the jazz as the guitar is strummed in empathy. It is the piano of Gerry Gladston that is the star as, after another fitting guitar solo, he goes off an inventive number of effective plinky runs throughout. The wonderfully titled, traditional song Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing must be where the swamp in the name comes from as this almost Cajun romp with horns. The atmosphere from the off suggests that this must surely have featured in a Mardi Gras in days gone by. The guitar tone and runs in the solo lift this beyond just another cover. Albert King’s I Get Evil is treated with reverence and the slow and mildly funky blues version the Cats serve is very good indeed with Don doing a sterling job on in the background and then channelling the feel of the King without copying. Final track is, as the title suggests, a driving song that was once so loved…this original is called Shiny Gray Corvette. A strange choice of colour perhaps but with piano and guitar in full-on Rock ‘n’ Roll mode the colour isn’t relevant and, after all, if was red or pink, questions would be asked. This is pure fun and I get the feeling that the whole band felt the same as they recorded this and the rest of the album.
This is an album filled with fun and energy and, if like me, it isn’t your normal genre of choice, there is still a hell of a lot to glean from both the originals and covers. I will be filing this under rock and roll rather than blues and it is a welcome addition to the collection with its variety and errr, hepness!
The Jersey Swamp Cats are well fed on Go Cat Go! The energy is full-on and fun is the name of this brand of Rock ‘n’ Roll!
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Jump, Jive and Wail
- Blue Monday
- I Don’t Mind
- Too Tired
- Dance All Night
- Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing
- I Get Evil
- Shiny Gray Corvette
Gerry Gladstone – Vocals, Piano
Don Leich – Vocals, Guitar
Larry Ghiorsi – Vocals, Bass
Chris Reardon – Vocals, Drums
Anthony Salimbene Jr; – Tenor Saxophone
Patrick Dudasik – Trumpet
Recorded at:Mozart Studio, Little Falls, NJ