Lil’ Red and the Rooster crow about their Soul Burnin’

The blues has never been restricted by boundaries; geographic or otherwise and I’m delighted to prove that statement by offering you an international recipe for our beloved genre…take a lady from Ohio with over thirty years experience of performing as an actor, dancer as well as a singer/songwriter and mix gently with a French guitarist who got the blues, courtesy of BB King, at the age of sixteen. This pairing are Jennifer Milligan and Pascal Fouquet and as Lil’ Red And The Rooster, they have been together for a few years now and have laid down some of their chemistry on tape (or whatever the digital equivalent is). I wouldn’t be surprised if their names are inspired by the classic Willie Dixon song, Little Red Rooster, and neatly transcribed into the two ‘stage names’. Their most recent release is their second and follows the 2013 release, ‘Out of the Coop’; Soul Burnin’, supplies twelve original compositions including two instrumentals and they add up to a warm and tangible experience of the blues as seen from a Franco-US point of view…add into that some current, relevant and poignant lyrics with a fabulous rhythm section which is the crème of French talent and this recipe is beginning to simmer rather nicely.

Sort of title track, Soul Burnin’ Wrong opens the proceedings with a pro-liberty, anti-violence song neatly summed up in the last line…”Take your psychopathic ass right out of town”. The accompanying music suits the theme as Lil’ uses a powerful alto voice to introduce the track before Rooster joins in with picked banjo guitar giving the simple approach a lovely weight and when the rest of the band join in it becomes a really enjoyable blues with an early sound reinforced by the organ and electric guitar overdubs and solos. A great start indeed. Early blues stay with us as Delta flavours abound in Catch That Train and we get a delightful slide intro with great tone and it develops brilliantly from there as everyone else contributes to bringing together that modern early blues touch again. The short and sweet chorded slide solo is right up my street and the vocals, bass, drums and piano fill the sound nicely. Listen is the next track and takes us into a jazz-based ‘lounge’ blues; an outstanding guitar solo from Pascal and producer Dave Specter makes it even better. Narcissistic Blues brings a touch of Chicago into this mid-paced shuffle. Once again the whole band are tight and expressive as Jennifer puts some soul into the tale. A piano solo keeps the mood while the guitar plays a technically excellent backing and a solo of quality and, whilst keeping the Chicago touches, it is remarkably original. Next up is an instrumental which plays on the French for cockerel and Coq-a-Doodlin’ is a chance for Pascal to fit in some dazzling guitar work with inspiration from many greats…see if you can spot them. It works well and is toe-tapper as well as an instructional tune for guitarists everywhere…chords runs, hammers, bends all contribute to a joyous piece from Pascal. Black Cat Fever sounds tailor-made for Eartha Kitt (pun intended) as it the 50s lounge feeling is redolent in the vocals and the instrumentation. The piano and then the guitar solos prevent in falling into cliché although it is nit my favourite. Next we get a chunk of funk with the brilliant upright bass and soul of the vocals of Respect Your Sisters. The guitar solo rescues it from being over familiar and lifts the song from the formulaic sound it nearly fell into. Tic Toc brings us a jazzy tale of misjudgement…by both protagonists, as evidenced by the modern touch in listing TV shows and the “six hundred freakin’ channels and nothing better on”. Pascal shines yet again as he solos over the languid jazz of the band. A lovely a capella intro brings us to Hey Mister, Mister which is jazz infused blues and works a treat.; especially when the snare heralds a leap into a fast paced jazzy section featuring Jennifer’s washboard work. Big Boy Boogie is the second instrumental and again lets Pascal show his dexterity and inventiveness in the way he takes established phrasing and techniques and blends them in ways many guitarists can only dream about…even when he purposely fits recognisable bits in it remains original. The piano solo in the middle follows his example. Love it, even if it is way too short! Chicken Scratch is a biographical song about the twosomes meeting with the strains of Howlin’ Wolf playing. It is a cross between a Juke boogie and, courtesy of the guitar solo, a slice of Mississippi shows through. A clever song with lots to hear in the instrumentation as each one puts in some neat touches. The album closes with a slow soulful blues ballad called Occupy My Mind…not sure I would have chosen to end on such a slow number…it is a strong and tasteful ballad however and very enjoyable with another lovely Rooster solo.

This is a high-quality work by every contributor and the production is crystal clear so that all of the nuances that are liberally sprinkled through every track can be heard and appreciated…and to get maximum benefit from this album, I suggest you do just that. It is somehow familiar and yet has clarity and originality that lifts it way above many similarly targeted releases…it’s like slipping into something comfortable and relaxing with a bottle of quality red wine…be it French or New World!

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting

  1. Soul Burnin’ Wrong
  2. Catch The Train
  3. Listen
  4. Narcissistic Blues
  5. Coq A Doodlin
  6. Black Cat Fever
  7. Respect Your Sisters
  8. TicToc
  9. Hey Mister Mister
  10. Big Boy Boogie
  11. Chicken Scratch
  12. Occupy My Mind


All songs composed by Jennifer Milligan & Pascal Fouquet

Musicians:

Jennifer ‘Lil’ Red’ Milligan: vocals, washboard

Pascal ‘Rooster’ Fouquet: guitars

Denis Agenet: drums

Abdell B. Bop Bouyousli: upright bass

Ricky Nyc: piano, organ, Wurlitzer



Dave Specter: guitar on tracks 3,4,5

Shaun Booker: vocals, tambourine on 2, 3, 6, 7, 9

Caroline Rau: vocals on 2, 6, 7

Jeff Morrow: vocals on 2, 6, 7, 9

Produced by Dave Specter

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