First Blush Music Reviews

Imelda May has some serious vocal chops and her songs are all constructed around showing off her pipes. Clearly, this is an artist who has done her homework (evidently, she was the vocalist for a roots rock band for seven years prior to going solo). Like a subtle perfume, her various vocal stylings hint and whisper at sources of inspiration... full-throated, husky, imperiousness that Wanda Jackson couldn't handle better, whispered laments that could move Billie Holiday or sultry come-hithers that would have Petty Lee swinging her hips. The success of Imelda May is that none of these influences overpower her own talents, and it is precisely this ease as moving from country to jazz to pop (even if "pop" music as it hit turntables a half a century ago) attitudes that makes her music such a delight to behold. The music is tasteful, featuring a full band but restrained arrangements, recorded to sound warm and alive -- as proven by the "live room" sound of the thumping upright base that opens "Johnny Got a Boom Boom".

Joe Brown blends US and UK influences to create a satisfying roots rock sound. The clean, modern and full production stands in contrast to much of the ethic of today's retro and alt-country approach. Instead, the work sounds either like when past country luminaries tried to sound "relevant" in the 80's and 90's (think the Cash/Nelson/Jennings/Kristofferson supergroup THE HIGHWAYMEN or Carl Perkins' star-studded 1996 effort, GO CAT GO) or when 60's and 70's rock gods grab a mandolin or bust out a shuffle lick (think TRAVELING WILBURYS). The picking is more crisp than ferocious, but it'll get your toe tapping.

The Honeybees - genial, witty ditties that rise on the wings of high harmonies and the sweet (if occasionally pitchy) female dual vocals of Barbara Clifford and Rachel Decker, ably abetted by sunny playing that nods to many styles found in the pre-British Invasion hit parade.