While the Alabama Shakes currently fly the flag for an amped up and sassy take on Southern blues and rock The Heritage Blues Orchestra show that its not only the younger generation who can shake that particular tail feather. Drawing from the same well as the Shakes as befits their maturity they have a more traditional and a statelier feel but that’s not to say that these 12 songs lack the energy and immediacy of Brittany Howard and her colleagues. Despite the grey beards and suited demeanour this album rocks in a righteous way with lashings of wicked blues guitar swamped with some awesome horn playing and a mighty percussive engine room.
The opening stomp of Clarksdale Moan thunders like Led Zeppelin’s When The Levee breaks due to the drumming of Kenny “Beady Eyes” Smith while the horns add a new Orleans feel. A great opening number it sets the tone for the remainder of the album. The voices of Chaney Sims, Bill Sims Jr. and Junior Mack are all well versed in old time holler, Gospel wails and bluesy insinuation allowing the band to deliver an all too sinful sounding C-Line Woman which slinks along like a sinner in a church while Big Legged Woman forsakes the church for an earthy rumbunctiousness. The band see-saw between the secular and the sacred throughout the album with the traditional Get Right Church capturing the rapture of Gospel while a downright dirty guitar corkscrews throughout. They recall slavery spirituals and field hollers on several songs while the spirit of John Lee Hooker hovers over their cover of Eric Bibb’s Don’t Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down. The breathless sprint through In The Morning is perhaps the most condensed example of their style. Soaked in Gospel with parping horns and great church tent revivalist vocals it could possibly raise the dead. While the majority of the songs are either traditional or covers the one original Chilly Jordan, written by Junior Mack more than holds its own. A fine rippling guitar rolls along on the jauntiest song here.
A powerful album, the slightly jazzy horns, the muscular blues guitar and the spirited singing all combine to create a disc that will appeal to anyone interested in the Staple Singers, Ry Cooder, Dr. John or hopefully the Alabama Shakes.