This evening I was handed an unlabelled early run of a new EP from a local artist. As a working musician and venue agent, this is a fairly regular occurrence. Each time I feed the disc into the dashboard on the late night post-gig haul home, I pray that there might just be even the smallest flake of gold in the muddy waters that I seem to endlessly pan...
Tonight was different. Forget the flakes, somebody had just kicked the doors off a hidden mine full of the stuff.
The opening track “Old Bessie” grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and threw me kicking and screaming into a western style brawl, complete with flying bar stools and ample bosomed ladies being slid down the bar through racked up glasses of bourbon.
The second track was fittingly entitled “Goldrush” and opens up early with the type of electric slide work which congers up a balmy, dust track journey else bound. It occurred to me during this track that these five guys had sat down in a studio and whether intentionally or not had captured the sounds of an old saddle worn pair of Wranglers, an outlaw run for the border and some good ol’ boys misadventure.... It’s a beautiful noise.
Track three was called “Never Stops” and is an out and out train song. Suddenly I was seven or eight years old again, trying as best I could to push old eight track “Box Car Willie” cartridges into the player in my Dad’s truck. The bass line is solid, the percussion carries you over every nut and bolt in the rail track and the Hammond keys throughout this EP take you into a hazy Sunday morning gospel gathering, where you pray for forgiveness over the previous nights antics but with one eye on the those of the forthcoming night ahead..
Next up came “Potholes and Roadkill”, and by now I’ve decided I’m driving the long way home. My only concern now is do I have enough fuel and whether I might be the first person to actually tap their way through a steering wheel.
I’m familiar with all of the musicians in this line up in their many other musical incarnations but something has clicked here and they move as one collective thundering ball of tone and rhythm that appears to scream “Jump on board or move out the way....Either way we’re coming through”.
Levee’s fretwork is abundant and of the highest quality and vocals to match. Andy Hayes books his place at the table with crisp rythm work and those high end frequency sprinkles of mandolin for feel and authenticity. Lee Wilson’s afore mentioned Hammond work and piano offerings are strong and ever present. Simon Gardiner’s bass work is nothing short of world class and is the heart thumping and kicking its way throughout. Lastly but by no means least is David Tettmar on drums and his percussion is delivered to us immaculately. Tettmar opens the final track of the EP which is an all out foot stomper entitled “Freaky”. His style is reminiscent for me of perhaps my favourite drummer of recent times “Jay Bellorose, (Ray Lamontagne, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss). Too often great drummers fall foul to poor studio engineering but not one stroke of a stick is lost here due to the combined efforts of Jim Riley and Brendon Eamonde.
What struck me about this collection of songs is in the process of thoroughly entertaining you, it cleverly provides you with a beautifully elaborate frame for you to put your own picture in. Everyone who listens to this EP will create their own backdrop.
It’s part rock, it’s part blues, it’s part gospel, it’s part country Americana, it’s a big part genius and it is amazingly well crafted in it’s writing, in it’s performance and definitely in it’s recording..
I’ve been reliably informed that Levee intends to extend this EP to a full album within the year and I’ll be personally kicking down the doors of the mine to get digging when he does...
In summary, you may call me a frustrated old cowboy wannabe but whilst you’re getting on with that, I’m gonna steal an old truck and go shoot some road signs.
Review by Lee Charles, 7th June 2011
The EP is officially launched at Broadstairs Folk Week
The Barnaby Rudge Music Venue, 3 p.m, Friday 12th August