Country and western

Jack Rabbit Slim

Jack rabbit Slim - Jet Lag, Junk Food and JD
Jack rabbit Slim – Jet Lag, Junk Food and JD

Jack Rabbit Slim – Jet Lag, Junk Food and JD [2011]

Western Star WSRC DVD 001
Good to see that Western Star is now releasing DVD’s. JRS makes quite a noise on the rockin’ scene. For good reasons I think. Their first albums are great and the latest one (Hairdos and Heartaches) is nothing less than a killer and they all sell well. This DVD could be called “In Bed with Jack Rabbit Slim” if Madonna hadn’t steal the idea. You’re invited to follow the band on the road, on stage, in the studio and much more. Bob Butfoy and the rest of the gang (Paul Saunders, Darren Lince and Landon Filler) talk about the band, their influences and heroes, their previous bands, memories of gigts and so on… External points of view are given by Mouse Zinn (Red Hot’n’Blue, Space Cadets), Alan Wilson (owner of Western Star, the Sharks), Jerry Chattabox (promoter of the Rockabilly Rave) and even the legendary Rockin’ Ronnie Weiser (wilder than ever) makes a short apparition at the beginning of the film. The interviews are peppered with live footage from different gigs and various degrees of quality. One can only regret that no entire songs are shown or even better that a complete live show is not featured at the end, but, what do you want?, the name of this DVD is Jet Lag Junk Food and JD not JRS in concert!

Jack Rabbit Slim - Hairdo's & Heartaches
Jack Rabbit Slim – Hairdo’s & Heartaches

Jack Rabbit Slim – Hairdo’s & Heartaches

Western Star WSRC038
Hairdos & Heartaches – Shake Rag – The Gift – Skin – Sentimentally Yours – I Need You – Everydays Gonna Be Like Yesterday – Typhoon – The Prisoner – 21st Century Bettie Page – High N Mighty – Time Is A Wastin

This is what I call a great rock’n’roll album. With their fourth album they propose a wide diversity of styles. It kicks off with “Hairdos and Heartaches” a pop song in the vein of “Needles and Pins” that seems to come straight from the sixties. “Shake Rag” follows and is radically different, but you’ll have to get used to this changes of pace. Each song is different to the one that follows. This time it’s a mean blues bopper with a terrific harp. “The Gift” comes closer to a rockabilly number and has a strong “Jungle Rock” beat. It’s a very powerful song with a blistering guitar solo.
“Skin” is what rock’n’roll should always be : wild. Not that it’s super fast or anything, it’s just full of tension and dare I say “sexual energy”. It features an electric bass for a fuller and garagy sound. And the lyrics are not your usual “I kiss you in the back of my Pink Cadillac”, far from that but don’t forget they define themselves as “sleaze-a-billy”.
But Bob and his pals know how to be sweet and smooth like they demonstrate on “Sentimentally Yours”. They perfectly nailed the sound of Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps and I can easily imagine that the band and Alan Wilson had a lot of fun doing that.
But the calm was just for a short period, they’re back with the garage sound of the Kinks’I Need You, full of sex frustration. “Everyday Gonna Be Like Yesterday” remains in the sixties but this time more in the country/rockabilly style of Rick Nelson. Twang meets blues on “Typhoon” with guitars and bass providing a solid wall of sound. Even blusier is “The Prisoner” with a fine slide guitar in the background. One of my favorite is “21st Century Bettie Page”, a rockin’ tune that wouldn’t be out of place on a Cramps album like “Stay Sick” or “Flame Job”. Then back to the pop sound with “High’n’Mighty” that sounds like an outtake of Morrissey’s Your Arsenal. Bob’s voice can be smooth or mean with equal success. The authentic rockabilly sound of “Time is a Waistin” a duet with Sue Moreno (Jack Rabbit Slim have backed her on a full album that we also strongly recommend) closes perfectly this killer platter.
As you can see it’s a very varied album and it could surprise some narrow minded listeners. But it’s always done with taste and most of all it rocks, so why should you hesitate.
As usual with Western Star the production work is perfect both clean and lively, vintage and contemporary (you’ll have to listen to understand that), in one word flawless.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Big Valley Rangers

Big Valley Rangers - Bells of Amarillo
Big Valley Rangers – Bells of Amarillo

The Big Valley Rangers – Bells Of Amarillo

Ridin’ Through The Valley – Sunday Shoes – Blue River – Hillbilly Swing – Doggone Blues – Serenade For An Outlaw – Old Mexico – Rev’d Up Heart – Agua Bendita – Senorita, Senorita! – Adios

It’s good to see one still plays this kind of country music, and it’s somehow weird to think they come from Seattle (though the town is known for its vivid roots music scene). The Big Valley Rangers are a mostly acoustic quartet made of Brian Ellidge (lead vocals, guitar), Johnny Mercury (guitars), Tyler Johnson (doublebass) and Liam Fitzgerald (rhythm guitar). For the recording of their debut album they invited a couple of guest musicians, among them Billy Joe Huels (Dusty 45’s) and Russ Blake (Lucky Stars), accordion, harmonica, trumpet, steel, fiddle…
Together they deliver 11 originals that already sound like timeless classics.
Ridin’ Through The Valley” is a song that’d make Gene Autry proud: nifty lyrics, good melody with yodel and whistling, you can’t find a better way to open the album. “Sunday Shoes” follows with a melody that reminded me of “Bouquet Of Rose“. It’s a solid country song delivered with class like a good ol’ Ernest Tubb tune. “Blue River” takes you back to the western tradition, with the Sons Of The Pioneers around the campfire, harmonizing sweet melodies before they go to sleep (close your eyes and hear the coyotes in the background). Never the ones to stay the two feet in the same boot, they pursue with a Western swing influenced number that wouldn’t be out of place on a Lucky Stars album, full of sizzling solos, with a special mention to Mercury’s jazz guitar. “Doggone Blues” is a cowboy blues, think Marty Robbins’ Pain & Misery meets Jimmie Rodgers.
The second part of the album is almost entirely devoted to songs with a strong “south of the border” style, and Ellidge clear and beautiful voice serves them very well. Serenade For An Outlaw is a short Spanish guitar instrumental that introduces Old Mexico. This time again you think of the great Marty Robbins but this desperado tales completed with Mariachis trumpets evokes more his gunfighters ballads like El Paso or Big Iron.  “Rev’d Up Heart” and “Senorita” take us back to the Autry style while “Agua Bendida” is a beautiful waltz with a Mexican feel and the aptly titled “Adios” closes the album. Do yourself a favor and buy this superb album right now.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis