Al Willis and the New Swingsters – Girl Trouble
Crazy Times Records CTR10-02 / CTR-CD 122
Lock and chain – Hot property – Have a tear on me – Back of my head – Enemy at the gate – The apologist – You don’t turn me on – Little black book – I believe you’re doing me wrong – Baddest kind of blues – Ya, yap yappin’ – Dee dat dee dum dum – Cold dark night – Long black train – Rocking the blues – I’m a little mixed up – I’m that fool – Revenge of the dodo
I plead guilty! I didn’t really know Al Willis before this album. Of course, I heard and watched a couple of videos on youtube, but for a reason unknown to me, I never bought any of his releases. And I don’t thank my friends who never told me, “You should listen to this guy!”
And suddenly, out of nowhere (but most probably from Willis’ ranch), Girl Trouble materialized in my mailbox.
What a shock! This guy understood it all. He counts among these players who don’t only play this music but live and breathe it. I mean, it seems natural. You’d never believed that not only Willis recorded this album in 2019 but that he is French.
Vocally speaking, Willis is not a wild man, or on the hiccupy side of Rockabilly, his growl is deep and steady. It evokes the voices of early Elvis, Warren Smith with some country twang a la Dale Watson (what a combination!) And if that wasn’t enough, he’s a darn good guitar player too.
He is ably backed by two veterans of the French scene, namely Pascal Albrecht (Southerners, Mystery Train) on double-bass and Red Dennis (Sprites) on drums. Together they build a solid rhythm that is always supportive and never pervasive. Many double-bass players should take example on Albrecht, who doesn’t slap his bass when it’s unnecessary, especially when you have a drummer like Red Dennis.
The styles range from traditional Rockabilly to hillbilly bop, with some country and western and a touch of blues.
Half of the songs are originals, either penned by Willis, alone or with the help of Paul Sheahan (Bopshack Stompers), or by the talented duo of Geoff Taggart and Jim Newcombe (who also penned songs for Rayburn Anthony and Hayden Thompson.) A bunch of rather obscure covers from Terry Dene, Jim Wilson, Roy Gaines, Geo Lester, Larry Green, Leon Bowman, Betty James, and closer to us, the Zazou Cowboys, completes the set.
One last thing, I usually believe that Rockabilly records should be short, twelve songs, and if there are ten, it’s even better. But this 18 song album (12 on the 10”) never loses steam. The trio keeps this high-quality level all along this album.
Buy it, you won’t regret it!
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