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fRoots reviews: 2011

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Murder Ballads
Secret London

The Lil' Band O' Gold: The Promised Land: A Swamp Pop Journey.
"What is swamp pop?" asks Lafayette's legendary Gene Terry in the band documentary this album soundtracks. "I've studied it, and I've come to the conclusion that swamp pop music is white guys playing black music damn good."
LBoG's eight-strong supergroup of veteran Louisiana musicians certainly deliver on that definition here, and the result is 53 minutes of prime New Orleans R&B. The band's members have worked with everyone from Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan to Mavis Staples, Clifton Chenier and Slim Harpo, but it's pretty clear from the evidence here that playing together brings a little extra spice to the gumbo for all concerned. It's a masterful demonstration of the old guard's rootsy musical craft: Buena Vista on the Bayou.
Highlights? Well, there's the stately sway of Faster & Faster, teased along by a twitching guitar pattern from guest David Kitt, and featuring the most soulful of Warren Storm's six lead vocals. Storm's well into his seventies now, but you'd never guess that from his gutsy, expressive voice.
David Egan's songwriting is equally impressive. The best of his three compositions here is Dreamer, where Egan's own rolling N'Yawlins piano chords lead the band through a slow, nostagic ballad. His writing scores again with Hard Enough, though there it's Richard Comeaux's pedal steel that dominates.
Guitarist CC Adcock has three songs on the album too, and the acoustic Memories is my favourite. Tommy McLain guests with a tender, country-tinged vocal, and Dickie Landry contributes a breathy sax solo. Adcock shines again on Ain't No Child No More, trading the riff back and forth with Steve Riley's accordian to make this the album's most exhilarating rocker.
Landry joins with Pat Breaux on saxophones on almost every other track here, and the duo always adds a welcome texture and swing. Dave Ranson's bass and Storm's drumming tie everything together nicely.
On the debit side, the album's noisier tracks sometimes veer a little too close to standard southern rock, and the cover of ELO's Hold On Tight proves pretty forgettable. But these are mere quibbles. As Riley sings on Ain't No Child No More: "This is the gospel truth / I am the living proof". That could be the album itself talking, and you'd be a fool not to listen.

This review first appeared in fRoots 340. For more details, visit the magazine's website here.

My new gig: Ain't nothing but a blues thang

In the summer of 2011, I started writing occasional reviews of blues CDs and suchlike material for fRoots, the UK's leading folk music and world music magazine.
      The deal is that fRoots gets each review to itself for a full month (two months in the case of a double issue), and then I'm free to run it here on PlanetSlade too. Once in a while, they have the cheek to spike something of mine altogether, in which case I'll run it here as soon as that becomes apparent.
      For more about fRoots, which I can heartily recommend to all PlanetSlade readers, visit the magazine's website here. The editor's free monthly music podcast is particularly good.

Nov/Dec 2012

Paul Lamb & The King Snakes: The Games People Play

June 2012

Mike Stevens & Matt Andersen: Push Record

May 2012

The Teaser, by Little G Weevil.

Unpublished 2011

The Hellhound Sample, by Charles Shaar Murray.

Darling oh Darling, by Miss Tess

O Dig, by The Woodshedders

Oct 2011

The Promised Land: A Swamp Pop Journey, by The Lil' Band O' Gold.

Aug/Sept 2011

Middle of Everywhere, by Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three.

Lucky Devil, by Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns.

River Town, by Jack Blackman.

July 2011

The Skinny, by Ian Siegal & The Youngest Sons.

100 Years of Robert Johnson, by Big Head Blues Club.