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Blues Round-up: April 2011

Album Review

Henry Yates on new releases from The Stone Electric, Harry Manx, Todd Sharpville, Raisin' Music and Mark Robinson

The Stone Electric: The Stone Electric

Many years ago, Classic Rock gave up trying to understand the A&R selection process, by which monkeys in hot-pants sign record deals on yachts, while hair-shakingly great rock bands like The Stone Electric fight for scraps as a needle in the MySpace haystack. It’s strange, too, because the band are highly marketable: a brother/sister duo with striking looks and a famous-sounding surname (Noni Crow is the voice, Austyn Crow the guitar). More important, for our purposes at least, is that the Crows also happen to be brilliant; Noni proving a warrior princess with a testicle-shrinking delivery, and Austyn cranking out the meanest retro-modern blues licks we’ve heard in ages. Sure, they’re well-drilled at the whole sparse fuzzbox blues thing. And proceed to do it stingingly well on songs the like of BFM and The Elephant. But there’s depth here too, evidenced by the barometrically Floydian atmospherics of Gotta Get Out. And if you haven’t got time for a band with a song called Tequila Mockingbird, then God help you. (8/10)

Harry Manx: Isle Of Manx

Fans of stubby-tailed cats will be disappointed to learn that Isle Of Manx is merely a pun, while blues purists may be bewildered by Harry’s cultural mash-up of Delta motifs and Indian ragas. That just leaves the open-minded majority, who will surely be entranced by some gorgeously evocative songwriting and a voice that sounds like smoked honey. (7/10)

Todd Sharpville: Porchlight

In these times of ADD teenagers devouring 79p downloads, this chap might be pushing his luck with a double album. Still, if you’re over 30 and stuck in traffic, you’ll probably stick with Porchlight, which hardly reinvents the wheel with its bouncy bar-room fare, but polishes it up real nice with a whip-cracking guitar tone and a pleasantly throaty vocal. (6/10)

Various Artists: Chicago Blues: A Living History (Volume 2)

The brief is simple and borderline sycophantic: a bunch of current Windy City cats hook up to pay musical tribute to a bunch of dead ones. The good news is they don’t desecrate anyone’s grave, with standouts like Lonnie Johnson’s He’s A Jelly Roll Baker and Floyd Jones’s Stockyard Blues reheating the originals to toe-tapping effect. We’ve heard bolder production, but it all adds to the dusty vibe. (6/10)

Mark Robinson: Quit Your Job, Play Guitar

It goes without saying that we had this review’s punchline – ‘don’t quit your day job!’ – written before the CD played. Then he went and ruined it by being pretty good: a laid-back virtuoso who wrings maximum soul from his fairly-standard songwriting. The keening slide work of Runaway Train is the pick, but he makes a decent fist of old favourite Sleepwalk, too. (5/10)

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