Tag Archives: Blues

Paul McCartney – Run Devil Run

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Paul McCartney’s Run Devil Run album (1999), marked his first release following the death of his wife, Linda McMartney, a year before. This is the second 50s-focused album that McCartney has released, the other being Снова в СССР from 1988. However, unlike the 1988 album, Run Devil Run chooses not to focus on the great rock’n’roll standards, like “That’s All Right” or “Lucille”, but on more obscure cuts that McCartney, and the other Beatles, grew up with in the 1950s.

The sound on Run Devil Run varies noticeably from track to track. This may be a side-effect of the album being recorded in different sessions at different times. On the highlight tracks, and most of the numbers to be fair, the sound is pretty much spot on. The vocals are clear but well supported by the rhythm while, in the first track especially, the guitars kick in loud when they come to solo. However, there are a handful of tracks where, similar to Jerry Lee Lewis’ Youngblood, an artificial attempt at 50s echo is made. This leads to some tracks losing vocal clarity – most noticeable on “Honey Hush”.

Track List

Blue Jean Bop – This Gene Vincent classic kicks the album off at a rather steady pace. Paul starts off alone with just voice and bass before the drums kick in. This opener delivers two stinging guitar solos and overall the track starts the album with a faithful 50s sound.

She Said Yeah – One of the highlights on the album for me. Paul makes the most of his voice, kicking into ‘Little Richard’ mode to belt this one out. The speed is high, the vocals are loud and the whole thing rocks!

All Shook Up – The first track that Paul has some fun with. A catchy guitar riff kicks the track off before Paul starts to rip through. The vocals are a little OTT for me on this one, the lyrics better the suit the more suggestive tone taken by The King.

Run Devil Run – The first of Paul’s originals on the album. Named after a drug store in the US and written in a style aimed to pay tribute to Chuck Berry, this track rocks full out. The story concerns the ups and downs of a ‘holy roller’, including getting siblings out of jail and picking cotton!

No Other Baby – Paul claims that this is the ‘most obscure song on the album’ and that he ‘never had the record’. However, the song remains imprinted in his memory and Paul and the band produce a solid job on this slower, more bluesy number.

Lonesome Town – A Ricky Nelson song that, lyrically, doesn’t stray far from the “Heartbreak Hotel” territory. This is a classic early ballad and fits neatly into the “Who Will The Next Fool Be” line of piano led songs.

Try Not To Cry – The second of McCartney’s originals on the album. This is one of the least 50s sounding tracks on the album and, while its not my favorite track, it does inject some variety into the album.

Movie Magg – I prefer this cut of “Movie Magg” compared to the original by Carl Perkins. Paul keeps the general country feel of the track, but, with the less-American voice, the overall effect feels more subtle.

Brown Eyed Handsome Man – This track, like “All Shook Up”, makes a conscious effort to step away from the original – in this case the Buddy Holly version of the Chuck Berry classic. I wouldn’t say that this version is my favorite but it is quirky and different and that deserves recognition on a track this well known.

What It Is – Another stand-out track on the album and another McCartney original. This is almost early-Beatles sounding and retains that classic sound, belting vocals and is a happy, uplifting track that rocks along in its own relaxed way.

Coquette – McCartney rolls out his best Fats Domino impersonation for this bluesy number. At this stage in the album it seems important to note the overall impact on Paul these musicians had, including his singing voice. Paul’s singing stye owes a lot to Little Richard and the other 50s rockers.

I Got Stung – An obscure Elvis number. This song is really the archetypal rockabilly sound on nearly every instrument. Drum stops, key-bashing piano and faced paced chuggin’ guitars – all at max pace. The lyrics are a little forgettable and, for that reason, this track isn’t one that I race back to time and again.

Honey Hush – An pre-rock’n’roll Big Joe Turner song. I can’t say this track does much for me. The leveling is out, making lyrics hard to hear – therefore the song becomes Paul wailing over slightly overdriven guitars screeching 12-bar.

Shake A Hand – This echo-soaked slower number nudges the album towards the close. A Little Richard number that Paul picked up when in Germany with The Beatles. This song is ok but lacks the oomph or impact of some of the highlights of the album.

Party – Another obscure Elvis number, this time from the movie, Loving You. The song is upbeat, happy and paced to make you dance. This makes is ideal to close out this album – a celebration of the 50s and the great rock’n’roll music.

Overall, Run Devil Run is an enjoyable, rocking album. Most of Paul’s singing and performances sound fresh and the band is tight and rockin’. There are a few tracks that I’m largely indifferent about but the tracks that are absolutely top-notch more than make up for that. A final reflection on rock’n’roll albums: Part of the challenge I think is knowing when to stop – too short an album and the customer feels cheated, too long and album and sub-par tracks sneak in; aren’t we a tough lot to please!

Paul McCartney – Run Devil Run – 6/10

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Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three – Middle Of Everywhere

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Middle Of Everywhere is the 2011 release by Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. This album is in a style that stands apart from all the other pieces I have blogged on to this point – being a mix of pre-WWII country, blues and ragtime merged into what laFarge calls River Boat Soul. I first became aware of the band through their performance on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny show at New Year.

At a first listen, country is the predominant style on the album but I have found that, the more listens through I give it, the more I pick up. Traces of Robert Johnson’s blues, Woody Guthrie’s folk and others are all in the seamless mix that the band has put together. Each of the tracks is led by LaFarge’s nasal, yet charismatic singing and his rhythm guitar. The South City Three consist of upright bass player Joey Glynn, Adam Hoskins on lead arch-top guitar and Ryan Koenig on washboard percussion. All of the group are superb musicians in their own right and each plays an integral role in the overall sound.

Track List

“So Long Honeybee, Goodbye” (LaFarge) – An ‘old-time’ country flavored track that laments trying to hold together a relationship while being on the road. The singer remains upbeat, claiming that, if the girl gives up on him,  ‘You’ll be the one to sit alone and cry’ as there is plenty of fish in the sea. A strong opener to the album with a cleverly used change of pace later in the song.

“Ain’t The Same” (LaFarge) – A guitar and harmonica track that strongly reminds me of the soundtracks to the Railroad Tycoon games! The singer here is arguing that he can offer a girl a life better than the one she is living and more like the wanted she wanted further back in time. The song keeps it bluesy feel throughout and has a very catchy central riff.

“Head To Toe” (LaFarge) – A feel-good ragtime song with a strong call-and-answer technique throughout. The lyrics are fairly traditional ‘I Love You’ lyrics but this doesn’t stop the song being enjoyable.

“Sunny Side Of The Street” (LaFarge) – A laid-back song where the singer is crying out for something ‘to lift my out of the world’ after a failed love affair has broken down. A gentler song.

“Shenandoah River” (LaFarge) – Another of the album’s gentler tracks that talks about a couple sharing a gentle sail in a rowboat on the title’s river. The song has a jazzy feel contained within it, brought through in some of the chord choices.

“Mississippi Girl” (LaFarge) – The pace picks up here as the harmonica brings this track in. The pace has picked up to that which marks the opening songs on the album. Here the singer sings of the joys of dancing with a southern girl.

“Feels So Good” (LaFarge) – Another of jazzier feeling tracks on the album. Set to a raunchy beat, the lyrics are talking about how good it is to be in love. There is a brief bass solo in this track, slapped in the rockabilly style. Also this track features the largest amount of horn music on the album.

“River Rock Bottom” (LaFarge) – A harmonica driven ballad gives the tale of the singer complaining of having the blues while his partner claims that she has all he needs to get the blues over. This is the most downbeat start to a song on the album so far but as it progresses to the solo it kicks up to the gear LaFarge has used throughout the album.

“Weedwacker Rag” (LaFarge) – This track is again representative of LaFarge’s charismatic singing as he proclaims that he’s a whole new type of person from those mostly found in the world.

“Drinkin’ Whiskey Tonight” (LaFarge) – The song that caught my attention on Jools Holland. The song is a celebration of drinking together with friends and the good times that ensues. The song, especially live, shows off the musical ability of the band and the charismatic leadership of LaFarge.

“Good Country Girls” (LaFarge) – Like so many of the tracks on this album, this one is hard to pin down. In line with the song’s title, country, is a strong influence here but there’s also a fair amount of ragtime jazz in the mix here and this mix keeps the track interesting as the different instruments, especially the harmonica, solo through.

“Coffe Pot Blues” (LaFarge) – The song sounds very different to most on the album. I’m not sure if this was recorded in a different place to the rest of the album or whether the change is simply a deliberate choice of LaFarge. This is  a strong bluesy track that has strong traces of Robert Johnson and other pre-war blues artists in it.

“Keep Your Hands Off My Gal” (LaFarge) – The album finishes on a gently jazzy note where the singer calmly threatens to kill  anyone who puts their hands on his girl!

Overall the sound that Pokey LaFarge has (re)created on this album sits well outside of what I would usually listen to. The strong pre-war country/ ragtime/ blues feel marks it out from my more normal fare of rockabilly and classic rock. However, the band’s secret weapon is Pokey – his voice and charisma keeps drawing me in and I find it infectious, especially in the stronger tracks. The only downside to the album is the samey feel of some of the songs. Listening to this album does make a refreshing change generally and I do think it is dominated by an upbeat feel that’s guaranteed to garner a smile.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three – Middle of Everywhere 6/10

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