Classic British R&B as they Sheik, Rattle and Roll
The band describe their sound as classic British R&B and on the evidence of their latest album, which has been my first exposure to them, you wouldn’t argue with that; in fact, it’s definitely a case of “Sheik, Rattle and Roll” (I bet that’s been used before!). Listening to this collection of songs I was instantly reminded of Dr Feelgood from the “Sneaking Suspicion” era, which is as classic British R&B as you can get. Lead singer “Slowblow” Dave Magson is no Elvis (P or C) but is effective in putting the songs across and has a really nice line in melodic harmonica playing, which is uncannily reminiscent of Lee Brilleaux – perhaps there is some blues voodoo at work here and the Canvey Island legend is being directly channeled. Unlike the mighty Feelgood, whose material didn’t stray too far from traditional blues subjects, it quickly becomes apparent on listening to these tracks that, while the band might look in the photos on their Facebook page like they are about to launch into a quick cover of “Route 66” (nothing wrong with that of course, having murdered it myself many times), their lyrics and song subjects are far more interesting and witty than you might suspect (cue “You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover” – another song they presumably don’t play).
The album kicks off with “Hard Again”, a tribute to Muddy Waters. The track starts with the classic sound of Adrian Thomas’ lead guitar repeating double stop notes, eight to the bar, the bass sliding up and down on single notes with the drums coming in before stopping to allow the guitar to start a new riff, with everybody joining in on a double push at the end of each phrase, after which the band start going full pelt before the singing starts with the scene setting line “He borrowed some chops from House and Sunnyland Slim.” I can imagine that this would make a great opening number for their live set. The second number “Save” is, again, non-typical of the genre in its subject matter, exploring a number of things that could be saved, as in “Save the Planet, keep the carbon down” etc. Halfway through the beat goes into a Quo type fast shuffle and the lyrics cleverly, I think, turn to the more traditional “Save some Love for Me.”
If you don’t normally bother listening to the lyrics (guilty as charged) these songs sound like a pulsating set of rocking R&B numbers, with great dynamics, tasty solos, fast riffs and really nice harmonica playing, but actually there is a lot more going on here with some nice lines being used, e.g. “I’m Swimming with a Sack of Stones” (from “Sack of Stones unsurprisingly) is as good a way of describing that sense of the weight of the world on your back as any you are likely to hear. “More Than a Little Bit Twisted” is a fun song describing a trip to a female (naturally) doctor to recover some mojo with the cure of “mouth to mouth therapy” being prescribed – “I had third degree burns coming off of her lips” and the complaint “she force fed me Viagra” (not an NHS doctor then) to keep going again and again. A bit like this band, keeping the rhythm steady throughout. “Kaleidoscope Girl” is another example of the clever approach to lyrics, “I had the rain but not the rainbow, the stars didn’t come out to play” is a perfect way of describing things being less than perfect before the perfect girl appears and “she switched on the colours, she put a glint in my eye”. Lovely stuff. “Off the Rails” features the line “self-medication’s gone to your head, you’re looking like an extra, in the Walking Dead”, which is a great line.
The sense of fun is typified by “Black Hearted Orange Man” which imagines Satan has decided to walk among the mortals after a makeover that results in him appearing as Donald Trump.
All of this is decidedly not what you might expect on
The Voodoo Sheiks – Unstoppable
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Hard Again
- Sack Of Stones
- More Than A little Bit Twisted
- Kaleidoscope Girl
- Black Hearted Orange Man
- Coming Off The Rails
- Bullet In The Post
- Tunnel Vision
- Quintessentially Mojo