HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF
Look Out Mama
Released 20th August 2012 on Loose Music.
This is a dictionary definition of ‘Country’ music – A style and genre of largely string-accompanied American popular music having roots in the folk music of the South, usually vocalized, generally simple in form and harmony, and typified by romantic or melancholy ballads. Or you could just put – Hurray For The Riff Raff.
This isn’t mainstream, over-produced radio-pop Country. This is backstreet Country. This is Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline fighting over Hank Williams. This is the sound of America. ‘Look Out Mama’ has been playing on a jukebox somewhere for a hundred years.
Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes) has produced the album brilliantly. It sounds current, ancient, classy and loose while giving room for the glorious, Bakelite voice of Alynda Lee Segarra to quiver and strut. I don’t even want to think about how good this would sound on vinyl. The songs are great, full of wit, wisdom, economy and surprises from the start. ‘Little Black Star’ begins with folky, strummed acoustic, then along come some fifties hand-claps, followed by country fiddle, bass and drums, even a bit of acapella.
‘What’s Wrong With Me’ is ghostly electric blues, lyrically simple but emotionally rich, whereas ‘Lake Of Fire’ is surf rock, complete with Link Wray guitar solo. ‘Riley’ has a disturbing, Pulp Fiction sound going on, the singer beckoning you to follow her into some dark, twisted fairytale. ‘Go Out On The Road’ is another little honky-tonk gem that takes a cliché, shines it up and turns it around.
Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music was first released in 1954. If these guys had been around then, Harry would have recorded ‘Ramblin’ Gal’ for sure. It makes me want to play Carter Family records.This album doesn’t sound old though. It sounds fresh, energetic and it sparkles. It’s just informed by America’s musical past, like Bonnie Prince Billy or Jack White. The band are really good too, driving the songs with skill, wit and passion but never over-playing. Yosi Pearlstein deserves a special mention. His percussive and fiddle skills really lift and propel this record.
I like Alynda Lee Segarra’s voice. It’s not conventionally pretty or sweet, but it has beauty, grace and can move me. She has a lot to say and I like the way she says it.
There are no negatives with this album. If you like fresh, quirky and exciting voices backed by music that is immediate but informed by the past, then buy this without hesitation. I have played it seven times today and it gets better each time. I would go a long way to see these people play live. I don’t have to – they’re coming to the UK very soon.
Hurray For The Riff Raff!
Copyright © 2012 William Henry Prince.