Reviews Zone

Jane Lee Hooker: Spiritus (Ruf Records) 17th November 2017

 


3 Stars (3 / 5)

 

 

 

New York rock-blues outfit Jane Lee Hooker are back with their second album, “Spiritus”, which is not a great choice for background music or to stick on to get baby to sleep! The powerful five-piece all female outfit, features members who used to be part of Nashville Pussy and Bad Wizard.

The quintet hooked up (see what I did there?) in 2012, and swore an oath of allegiance to each other; “We are a gang. We are family…” Dana “Danger” Athens fronts the unit as singer and she play piano and organ here, Hail Mary Z and Melissa “Cool Whip” Houston nail the concrete foundation on bass and drums, Tracy “High Top” and Tina “T Bone” Gorin share guitar duties.

The band made a big impact with last year’s debut, “No B!”, with a bunch of high energy blues covers which won praise from the UK’s blues media and won them plenty of new fans over here.

The new record delivers 10 cuts, all but two are band originals. They cover Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton’s and Minnie Lawler’s (aka Memphis Minnie) “Black Rat” and Don Robey/Joe Medwick and Joe Scott’s ’s “Turn On Your Love Light”, cut by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1961.

Recorded in New York in the summer of 2017 and produced by Matt Chiaravalle, “Spiritus”, is raw, has attitude and swagger by the lorry load, is ballsy and aggressive and rocks like a mother. Is it blues? Is it rock? Who cares. It’s loud and its in your face, and these gals know exactly what they are doing and where they are going. Not trying to be clever, not trying to reinvent the wheel with the material. It is as solid as a rock and all about the ensemble feel.

All live, no effects, no pedals, no overdubbing. Brave move. Reminds me of a true story when Frank Sinatra was in the studio with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra. Ol’ blue eyes turned up after everyone else had been sat waiting for a few hours, his large entourage sweeping in to the main room of the studio before him. He pops off vocal after vocal in one take each, then gets to the end of the very last song, and puts on his coat and walks out without saying a word to the assembled orchestra, studio and record label staff or conductor Nelson Riddle

Some flunky is sent after him and by now he is in the back seat of his limousine, behind tinted windows, his minders next to him, in the front seat and in two cars parked alongside his car. The nervous studio guy taps on the window, the blacked out window goes down a couple of inches and Sinatra’s hat and dark glasses poke out. “Yes”, he barks. The shaking assistant splutters out: “Er, Sorry to disturb you Mr Sinatra, but Mr Riddle needs you back in the studio, sir”. The superstar crooner, gruffly asks: “Why?” “For overdubs, sir”, says a shaky voiced assistant.

The window goes back up. The engine starts and the car slowly rolls away from the kerb. The assistant in major panic mode now.  The car pulls up sharply after a few feet, the window goes down again, and a head pops out. The head leaning out of the window wearing the trademark trilby is one Francis Albert Sinatra. He pushes his dark glasses down on his nose, looks over the top of them and  shouts to the terrified kid who is sure he is about to lose his job:

“Hey kid. You tell Mr Riddle that Mr Sinatra said overdubs are for faggots”. The window goes up and the cars drive off. He’s gone.  I know that is a true story because it was told to me by a legendary veteran guitarist who worked on that session and was having a cigarette by the door, when he saw and heard the entire exchange that day. (Apologies for the offensive language, but I am merely quoting Mr Sinatra.)

It’s old school rock and roll and in singer Dana Athens, they have a straight ahead rocker who really goes for it. She’d strip wallpaper with that screech and roar. Don’t expect fancy runs or vocal acrobatics. Her power does the job and she is never drowned out by the volume of the band.

The songs cover the topics of puppies, losing someone you thought had more time on earth, a song about legendary US venue Knuckleheads, a track about how falling in love makes you wake up as to how vibrant and beautiful the world is.

It’s all speedy stuff apart from two cuts, one a slow burner blues and the other soul torch song. This band would be more at home on the bill at Download than they would at The Great British R&B Festival in Colne, Lancashire me thinks. But wherever they play, if there’s a sound limiter in the building, trust me this lot are gonna trip that bugger in the first song! Pardon?

 

By Simon Redley

 

 

 


 

1 Stars (1 / 5) ‘Dull Zone’
2 Stars (2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
3 Stars (3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
4 Stars (4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
5 Stars (5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’

 

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