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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
RUSTY JACKS Holler 'N' Howl
Holler 'N' Howl comprises twelve tracks of no-nonsense meat and potatoes blues from a gutsy Northern Irish five-piece. Along the way, among the riffing, Chicago and the Southern states are referenced and paid due homage in a fluid and varied set.
The surprising dearth of informative sleeve notes leaves the listener guessing about almost everything except the songwriting credits, and even then, The MGs will be miffed to see that ‘The Hunter’ is credited to Free.
Putting that criticism aside, however, there are some sparkling moments on Holler ‘N’ Howl. The seven minutes of 'Never Had The Blues Before' would not be out of place on a Bluesbreakers' album and 'Bad Seeds' succeeds in fusing Rossington-Collins guitar shredding with four-on-the-floor rhythmic pounding, to pleasing effect.
Their reading of Sonny Boy Williamson's 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' also recalls John Mayall, and it succeeds in moving this blues staple away from stodgy, tired interpretations in a riff-based, Texas guitar-driven dynamic take, somehow referencing the Wolf's 'Howlin' For My Baby' atop a monster bass figure not too far removed from Roger Waters' 7/4 'Money' riff.
Southern blues, the band’s preferred home territory, assimilates huge soul influences and there’s grave soul sensitivity aplenty in 'Way Over My Head', with the band tightly locked in behind in understated empathetic backing. 'Down In The Gutter' too features anguished pleading over a heavy unrelenting riff.
Further reviewer switches are flicked in 'You Tease Me', a loping shuffle in the 'I Ain't Got You' mould, with unusual doo-wop backing vocals, and the gutsy Southern funk of 'Saturday Night Again' featuring impressive Aidan McGuigan harp.
Acoustic bottleneck and mellow harp adorn closing track 'The Sun Is Shining', displaying Rusty Jacks’ versatility and a good contrast with the previous plugged-in onslaught.
Some songs might be judged a bit over-long, raising the suspicion that the band’s well-honed live act has been enthusiastically replicated in the studio. If so, they are bound to be a live delight, but there’s no shame in pushing the edit button now and again.
And, to quote Chuck - information, please!
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