Reviews roundup – Jennifer Saran vs. Randy McAllister vs. Adrian Conner vs. Mississippi Bigfoot
Merry Christmas, You Are Loved
Well it isn’t. It’s still November, but that’s cutting it a bit fine for a Christmas album nowadays, as they’re usually in the shops by the August bank holiday. But here comes Hong Kong based adult contemporary singer songwriter, in the company of legendary producer Narada Michael Walden, with her contribution to the Christmas album canon.
It’s a mixture of covers and – shock, horror – new Christmas tunes. Now as far as I’m concerned the last good, new, Christmas tune was when Sir Shakin’ Stevens got to number one with ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’. And that’s got be thirty years ago. Incidentally, that was written by an Embra boy don’t you know. But, fair play to Ms Saran and Mr Walden for having a crack.
At least some of their new tunes are up tempo, because I’m sick of morbid dirges at the festive season, but it’s when they dip into the classics that it works best. I’m a traditionalist really, so I won’t quibble at another version of ‘Oh Come Oh Ye Faithful’ or ‘O Holy Night’. I particularly enjoyed her take on the Carpenters’ ‘Merry Christmas Darling’, a much underrated tune.
The backing is exemplary, and if you’re looking for something new this Christmas, then give this a go.
RANDY McALLISTER & The Scrappiest Band In The Motherland
Gristle To Gold
From Christmas to some gritty Texas blues, and who better to do that than Randy McAllister & The Scrappiest Band In The Motherland.
He’s that unusual mix, a singing, harmonica playing drummer, and together with his band – Rob Dewan and Matt Higgins. – he’s put together a really enjoyable set. He’s been at this a while, and came to wider blues notice back in the nineties, with a string of records on JSP.
He’s a fine singer, and he’s put together a fine collection of songs. His core band, plus some guest drummers put in a good shift, and there are some interesting arrangements, especially when the fiddles and horns put in an appearance hither and thither. When he rides a boogie, as he does on a few numbers, it’s a beautiful noise.
Current favourites are ‘Crappy Food, No Sleep, A Van and A Bunch Of Songs’ and ‘You Lit The Dynamite’, but it’s good from head to toe.
Adrian Conner may be best known as the lead guitarist for Hell’s Belles, the all female AC/DC tribute band, but away from that (and Judas Priest tribute, Belles Bent for Leather), Ms Conner has just released her eighth album, “Hush!”.
And, surprisingly, it’s an acoustic album, comprising some new / old songs written by her, a couple co-written with Kathy Valentine of the Go-Go’s and some covers of tunes by Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Rimsky-Korsakov. All of which works rather nicely.
Fifteen years of cranking out Young and Young riffs means she’s no mean guitarist, but this more restrained side really shows off her chops. For sure, some of it is coffee shop fodder, but on the best tracks, there is a subtext of visceral peeking through, that provides a welcome edge.
Best of the bunch are ‘We Got It All’, ‘Common Ground’ and the delightfully titled ‘Country Poontang’. And don’t forget to keep the CD spinning for the secret bonus track.
A new band, but one with pedigree.
Vocalist Christina Vierra recently recorded as the voice of Janis Joplin in the Biopic being released by Sony Pictures, guitarist Ashley Bishop has performed with some of the greats including Blind Mississippi Morris, Doug McMinn has toured with acts such as The Drifters, The Coasters and The Platters, while Cade Moore has shared the stage with Cedric Burnside and Pinetop Perkins, amongst many others. Along with guitarist Johnny Holiday, they are Mississippi Bigfoot, and they make a righteous noise.
On a set of all new tunes,bar a cover of the Booker T tune, ‘The Hunter’, as popularised by Free, they show they’ve got the moves and the grooves to make a big name for themselves in the world of the blues. They do Mississippi blues, they do blues rock, they throw in a hint of rock and roll, and they harness early ZZ Top to their sound.
Songs like ‘Burn That Woman Down’, ‘Mighty River’, ‘Clarksdale’ and the aforementioned ‘The Hunter’ will be your new best friends, should you give them the chance. A rip roaring treat of a record from start to finish.