I once discussed packaging with Black Seeds front man Barnaby Weir, on the impending release of the 2nd Fly My Pretties album. Weir was adamant about the need to build a strong brand and to deliver a product “that people would want to treasure”. Which is what he’s delivered here, with a gorgeous set of CD sized Tarot Cards replacing the usual liner notes – a tradition that harks back to classics like the Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake and other albums of that era. Apt, given the folky, sometimes twee, retro roots nature this new project and light years from the electronic sample mish mash Flash Harry (2003). This one’s a nostalgic, easy-listening Cadillac ride down a hassle free country lane, the eight track blaring and a comfort at Memphis’s Sun Studios.
Penned by Weir and longtime sparring partner Craig Terris (Cassette), these songs are honest and unpretentious. Opening the album, the title track unashamedly rips Springsteen’s ‘84 hit Dancing in the Dark before moving through to darker, bluesier, numbers (Let Me Slide). There’s dalliances with gypsy tinged, pastoral odes (Replay in My Heart) and a grainy, true rocka I’m Coming Home to sign off. Toss in FMP relic Old Friend and some heartland collaborations with Dutch country outfit Rootsclub and you’ve got one satisfying blend, immaculately packaged. Definitely a keeper.
Published in NZ Musician – Mar 2011
Below are three album reviews written for the New Zealand Musician between January and July 2011.
Stompin’ Nick and His Blues Grenade
Christchurch based Stomping Nick Jackman is a true one man band playing bass drum, snare, wailing harmonica and some bad ass Southern snake oiled guitar distortion all simultaneously. It’s a tradition that kicks back to the vaudeville era. Yet Jackman’s stock and trade is dirty swamp rock n’ blues and in true Mainland style it’s a DIY affair. Save for a Huddie Leadbetter number (“Black Betty”) and Robert Johnson’s “Preach the Blues” everything here is self penned and performed without the aid of loops, re-mixes over dubs or other trickery. That in it self is remarkable but what really separates this one from banal novelty is the pure soul and guts of the performances. Opener “One Man Band Fury” lays down the manifesto in a wailing serpentine of guitars and cymbals. This is followed by the grinding “Feral Mama” and, later, “Apple Wine” revives the terrific poltergeist of Muddy Waters. Remember the snippet of a street musician from U2’s ’”Rattle and Hum” doing “Freedom for my people”? Well, this is like that. On Acid! As the flyer says ‘ it’s hard to believe it’s only one man grinding out this raw trash-boogie”. But believe it, baby, believe it!
Dylan Storey / The Power Of Suggestion
Whether it be it necessity or a dogged decision to keep it close to home, Dylan Storey has embraced the DYI ethic hammer and tongs. This, his fourth release, is once again tracked at his home studio in the Waitakeres. Not that you’d know. The production is clean and crisp, yet nicely understated. No fancy producer trickery here. A good chance for Storey to show off his collection of vintage guitars. “Copy of a Copy” opens this 5 track ep with a slight alt-country feel, reminiscent of Wings and the Allman Bro.s before winding up to a heavier feel courtesy of bassist Brendan Turner and skins-man Scott Mason. “River Song” and “The Morning” drop fuzz pedals, a crawling jazz bass and funky snares as the momentum builds and sit heavy on the memory, long after the embers have burnt out. “Bold as Thieves” kicks in with deep Pixies style grunge riff, and closer “The Boss” wraps with a nice strum along. Unlike earlier efforts, this one feels more cohesive and truer to Storey’s on stage persona as a troubadour and narrator, albeit a highly proficient rock’n’roll magpie.
Ruby Fusion / Disciplinary Hearings
Christchurch 4 piece Ruby Fusion describe themselves as Politico-Funk-Punk-Folk-Blues-Roots. Right. On wax they’re somewhere between Coup D’ Tat and the Feelers.
This is first album proper following 2009’s patchy ‘First Broadcast’ ep. Yet again, it seems the haste to get material down has hampered quality control. The first five songs are rushed, poorly played and full of crass lyrics lacking any real poetry or style, especially the cheesy rock of Too much of a chore and potty mouthing of Smug.
Had I hit ‘stop’ I would’ve missed the two groovy 70’s slow burners Poor Blue and Call it Hope. It’s all too obvious that Gwen Reynold’s and Michael Russell’s keen horn section was on fire that day. Funky grinder Freeloader’s is a bit naïve, lyrically, but none the less a superb tune. Nearly ¾s in, Attitude finally shows us what this band is good at – Good, crowd pleasing sing-alongs fired from the hip. At last this band is sitting up straight at their desks!
Although there’s plenty of punk attitude here, these guys are way too old for this juvenile behaviour.
The beautifully jazzy Corporate Speak, with its deft and luscious instrumentals indicate the clear path this band should take, just find a better lyrics writer and grow some maturity glands.