Isn’t the internet wonderful? A few months ago I happened on a video that stood out for two reasons. First was the one take approach to it as the camera panned and dollied around the band playing, nice. Second however was the band itself. A Patsy Cline like singer with an intriguing look sang wonderfully over a magnificent blowsy Spanish inflected twang laden backing. The band was Gal Holiday And The Honky Tonk Revue and the song was To Make Amends. It stuck with me so Blabber’n’Smoke eventually acquired a copy of their latest album, Last To Leave, and lo and behold, To Make Amends is but one of the gems contained therein.
New Orleans residents, Gal Holiday And the Honky Tonk Revue are fronted by Vanessa Niemann, a wonderful singer, fired by the likes of Cline, Wanda Jackson and Loretta Lynn. She’s a formidable looking lady, the album cover has her imperiously sitting, defiant, outside an old trailer van, bags packed. Her lizard green dress and cowboy boots, tattoos and flame red hair all flagging up danger, this woman is not to be messed with. The image is carried on to the music, she sings with a sultry confidence, a country torch singer with attitude. Meanwhile the band curl and swing hitting plain old honky tonk, sweet bluegrass stylings and killer outlaw country.
From the start Niemann asserts her authority as a hefty grunt from her opens the first song, The Long Black Ribbon, a wide screen cowboy clatter with sterling pedal steel and telecaster twang. She’s A Killer is a film noire piece set to Western swing with double bass plucking bravely and the guitars just hoovering it up as they duel and quarrel. It’s similar to the rockabilly stylings of Imelda Mae but to the nth degree. Last To Leave is a fairly straightforward country styled lament but again the performance is well above par and they continue at this level throughout the album. Broke Down And Broke is gritty trucking fare while Rainy Nights, Sunny Days is suffused with early sixties Nashville smoothness, slightly jazzy with an excellent guitar solo that shares joy and tears, you need to hear this but it really is magnificent. Teach Me How To Two Step ups the sassiness quotient as Niemann swaggers over some more excellent guitars (it has to be said here that Chris Adkins and Tony Martinez on guitar and pedal steel shine throughout the album) and on the one cover here, Pat Benatar’s Love Is A Battlefield, they rein in the temptation to offer an amped up country rock version and instead treat the song to a brisk Bakersfield jaunt which again has some superb picking.
Last To Leave is an audaciously great listen from start to finish and while New Orleans folk can catch the band on a regular basis it would be great if someone could entice the band to cross the water. In the meantime we have the disc and that video.