Awkward Family Portraits. Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since. Holy Smoke Records.

a2637144493_16Belying their youthful appearance, Glasgow outfit Awkward Family Portraits, have done their time on the gig circuit, honing their chops (as they used to say). Steeped in old time American sounds, including folk, blues and western swing along with a swell dose of Parisian gypsy jazz panache, they have obviously done their homework as the 11 songs here, all penned by the band, are quite remarkable in their verisimilitude to many of the artists who are obviously the band’s touchstones. It’s a retro sound to be sure but it’s delivered with gusto and obvious delight while there’s a fine sense of humour threaded throughout, that sense of having fun amplified for example on the video to Ring, Ring, Angus.

One could say they’re following in the footsteps of Bob Wills, Dan Hicks, Bobby Romeo and numerous others although one suspects that recent practitioners such as Pokey LaFarge feature large. However, for a debut album, Everything We’ve Done Up Until Now Except What We’ve Done Since is absurdly assured and swings with a mighty heft. They open the proceedings with the AFP Theme which scats along finely with Julen Santamaria as the MC before launching into the bustling western swing of Keep On Keepin’ On which features some grand guitar from Timmy Allen along with some finely tuned dynamics. They do like to duck and dive within their songs which is a testament to how tight a unit they are – witness the switcharounds on the graveyard blues of Kick The Bucket while the syncopation and solos on Do Yourself A Favour are just perfect.

It’s not all jump and jive as they can swoon to a melancholy moon on a song such as Way The Wind Blows, guitarist Timmy Allen taking over vocals here from Santamaria, he’s obviously the romantic in the band. Meanwhile they even manage to sneak in some guitar playing which recalls the post punk pop of The Monochrome Set on Day Of A Lying Man and there’s a rockabilly element to Ring, Ring, Angus. The triumph here is the splendidly titled Don’t Drink Whisky It’s Risky. Aside from the title following in a long line of well-named songs warning of the dangers of the demon drink, it’s a perfectly realised slice of invigorating music with flailing fiddle and frisky guitar backing up Santamaria’s louche vocals. They close with the mellow and folky Come On Down, a hint that they are no one trick pony.

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