Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ringing in 08 with Rev. Organdrum and Amanda Shaw

The New Year is usually time that's written off by labels. We're still dazed by last year and getting our bearings in a post-holiday world so why try to confuse us with new releases? But a few brave souls put out product earlier this week and I'm happy to say that there are already two good ones out there for '08.

First we have an usual side project which a band boasts is more like a "main project." Rockabilly howler/guitarist Reverend Horton Heat isn't necessarily the type to make an organ trio record but his new combo is a winning one, even if you can't stand their Rev. Organdrum name. With Tim Alexander on Hammond and Todd Soesbe on drums, he waltzes through some oldie favorites instrumental favorites, mainly from the 50's and 60's including "Honky Tonk," "A Shot in the Dark" (from the original Pink Panther film), James Brown's "Night Train," the James Bond theme and a good helping of Booker T. and the M.G.'s ("Hang 'Em High," "Time is Tight"). They even do OK with vocal-less versions of Ray Charles' "I Got A Woman" and the Rascals' "Groovin'." Not exactly ground-breaking or breath-taking but it sure is enjoyable to listen to.

As for Amanda Shaw, how many teenage classically-trained Cajun fiddle players do you know? Sounds kind of gimmicky but she's got talent to back it up on her new Rounder release, Pretty Runs Out. Along with her sweet voice, she's got a country-pop sound that's should be a lot more palpable to roots fans than Shania plus her own fiddle featured in the mix. Not only that but she can also get bluesy (listen to "Chirmolito" and think Bonnie Raitt), give up some impressive playing ("French Jig" indeed), duet with some NOLA brass ("Give It Up") and play a good love song called "I Don't Want To Be Your Friend." I'm sure label would love her to become a Bijou Hanna M but for now, she's impressive enough as a bridge between good pop and downhome music.


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