Betty Soo and Doug Cox Across the Borderline: Lie to Me.
Blabber’n’Smoke first encountered Betty Soo a few months ago. Now she’s teamed up with ace guitarist Doug Cox to produce a fine, simple and superb album of covers. Soo is of Korean stock and hails from Texas while Cox is Canadian. Meeting at a guitar camp (indeed, do such things exist?) they appear to have shared a mutual admiration for Doug Sahm (whom Cox worked with) and soon Cox was touring with Soo. Together they cooked up the idea for this album wanting to share their favourite songwriters with the listener. Hence an album of songs by the likes of Loudon Wainwright, Butch Hancock, Sahm and Guy Clark along with lesser known talents such as Jeff Talmadge and Betty Elders.
Stripped back, the album features the pair on vocals with Cox’s fine resophonic guitar playing shining throughout. It’s an intimate affair, perfect for late night listening and the song selection is spot on. While the goofy country of Big Cheeseburgers (by Blaze Foley) and the bluesy Boxcars (Butch Hancock) are superb readings they excel on a pair of ballads. Betty Elders’ Light in Your Window showcases Soo’s fine clear voice while Guy Clark’s Dublin Blues ends the album on a high note.
Soo and Cox will be touring the UK in September and appear in Scotland for three dates.
Brothers Reid. Top of the Old Road
Brothers Reid are a band from Aberdeen who take Americana by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shake. A busy bustling band this debut might be a little muddy in its production but they have a fine line in their mixture of West Coast influenced rock with some folk influences thrown in. Starting off with Done and Dusted the harmonies and sinewy guitars hint at evenings spent listening to old Steve Miller and Moby Grape albums. Flea Circus continues in this vein but it’s the third song, Farmboy Blues which catches the listener’s ear. While it has a hint of the Grateful Dead’s country leanings the band steer it away from homage with an extended coda that has some fine guitar and strings. The outright folk embellishments on the following song City Lights come as a bit of a shock at first but are a brave reminder that the band hails from Scotland and not California. Despite that California is never far from the mind as they deliver their epic Roll On, a guitar churning slow flowing piece that sounds like it might be a killer heard live. Similarly the closing title song, a blues boogie whose harmonica parts recollect Canned Heat could have an audience on its feet yelling for more. Promising.
JD Malone & the Experts. Avalon
For a debut album his is a bit of a behemoth. Based in Philadelphia Malone and crew have produced a package that one generally expects from established bands. Comprising of two discs, the actual album on CD (with 13 tracks and five bonus cuts) and a DVD of them rehearsing in the studio it looks mighty impressive. Best of all however is the fact that Malone et al pull this off with no sign of filler throughout this bar the repetition of one song, Just Like New which has a “radio edit” version tacked on. Fitting perhaps as this band are nothing other than radio friendly with their version of blue collar American rock. Ringing and stinging guitars, sweet pedal steel and a rocking rhythm section back up Malone’s impassioned vocals on a series of songs that sound as familiar as hell after a few listens. The jangling intro Silver From is straight out of Earle county while the spooky Emmit Meets a Demon recalls the Byrds’ forays into swamp rock. Leave Us Alone has hints of the Jayhawks as has the Ballad of Mr. Bardo.
Covers of Creedence’s Fortunate Son (a great version by the way) and Tom Petty’s I Should Have Known It (on the DVD) show where the band are coming from. While they won’t win many awards for originality they do deserve an award for delivering this fine slice of energetic and rocking Americana.