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Blues Round-up: Summer 2014

Album Review

Henry Yates on new releases from Henry's Funeral Shoe, Jim Byrnes, Lonesome Shack, Bad Brad & The Fat Cats and Greyhounds

Henry’s Funeral Shoe: Comfortable Skin

Last year, two albums into their fragile ascent, Henry’s Funeral Shoe jettisoned their manager and bought out of their contract with US buzz-label Alive Natural Sound. To outsiders, the move smacked of stupidity, maybe even suicide, but this self-released EP suggests otherwise. It’s a five-song streak of vindication whose title reiterates that Welsh brothers Aled and Brennig Clifford are now operating on their own terms. Post-Stripes, ‘blues duo’ has become shorthand for a grubby hit-and-hope clatter. HFS can do torn and frayed better than most: witness the feral racket of Grown So Angry or the itchy garage-blues of Janice The Stripper (a song so seedy it’ll have you proffering a five-pound note). Unlike the herd, though, they tread softly, too, with Don’t Go Leaving pulling you up short with gorgeous swells of tremolo and a fragile vocal marking a spate of family deaths. Stepping into the void can’t have been easy – but on this (admittedly slim) evidence, the Shoe could run and run. (8/10) 

Jim Byrnes: St Louis Times

A concept album of sorts, SLT salutes the Missouri melting-pot of Byrnes’ youth (“the heart of the development of blues, jazz, gospel and soul”) through originals and covers of favourite sons. Chuck Berry’s Nadine is slowed down a few licks to a fruity leer, while James ‘Stump’ Johnson’s The Duck’s Yas Yas Yas is a rave-up on a riverboat, Byrnes and John Hammond enjoying themselves on duelling vocals. (7/10) 

Lonesome Shack: More Primitive 

In case you didn’t glean it from the title, sleeve art featuring animal jawbones and a bearded redneck in a tin bath suggests this Seattle trio have a certain resistance to technology. The music bears it out: songs like Head Holes and Wrecks are stripped and cyclical, built on ad-infinitum slide-licks and emaciated percussion. The result is atmospheric, but the songwriting could benefit from a curveball or two. (6/10) 

Bad Brad & The Fat Cats: Take A Walk With Me: Live In The Studio

‘Bad’ Brad Stivers is a Colorado-circuit showman who reportedly goes down a bomb every night at the roadhouse. This studio disc airs some classy originals – of which the best is the Pride And Joy-ish title track – and a vocal that could take him far if it reaches the right ears. (6/10) 

Greyhounds: Accumulator

Greyhounds are perennial sidemen Andrew Trube and Anthony Farrell, and Accumulator is their long-incubated debut, gathering new material and remastered sweepings (some dating back 15 years). They’re an interesting proposition, equal parts smoky soul and garage grit, and though both sing, the trump card is Farrell’s voice, which haunts you long after What’s On Your Mind plays out. (7/10)

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