Review : Imelda May - Mayhem
PopmattersSince releasing Love Tattoo in 2008, Imelda May has started to get some attention, but primarily on the far side of the Atlantic. The Irish singer’s wild vocals, retro style, and rockabilly sounds should be attention-getting, but they may be exactly the reason why she’s gone relatively unnoticed in the US so far. With her new release Mayhem, she proves that she and her band are one of rock’s more exciting and intriguing acts right now, regardless of whether or not she’s finding a proper fit (or even a proper US release).
May’s biggest influences come from the rockabilly tradition, occasionally echoing (relatively) recent acts like the Stray Cats or even Brian Setzer’s later works, sometimes coming more from an Eddie Cochrane line, and sometimes even getting to the psychobilly craziness. Matching the look, the licks, and the guitar tones to predecessor might set the up as act up as a simple nostalgia exercise, but Mayhem doesn’t sound like that sort of project....full text
GaelickImelda May has one of those voices. Rich, full, powerful and positively vintage in every way. As my sister said, her voice ‘just oozes sex like!’. Upon hearing her for the first time with ‘Johnny Got A Boom Boom’, I was instantly struck with curiosity. I had heard rockabilly music before, but never straight from Ireland. And never quite as spellbinding as Ms. May’s intense, 50’s-esque blast from the speakers. Aside from the fact that the lady has buckets of talent, and that the band compliment her beautifully, the music is a breath of fresh air when it pops up on the radio. There are few bands and artists in the charts lately that can claim to stand out and catch one’s ear quite like Imelda May, but thankfully she’s here, and she’s packing a new album to shake things up. Warning: Take care when listening to her new album as you may want to get up and do the twist while swinging your hair around maniacally. Not that I did.
It opens with ‘Pulling the Rug’ (try not to giggle ladies), a catchy rhythm and soft, velvety-vocal bursting into the usual slap-the-thigh, swing-your-girl song-and-dance with May’s vocals taking the focus instantly with her sexy, powerful blast of the chorus, changing the song from a mere introduction to the album to a stuck-in-your-head-for-days tune. ‘Psycho’ really caught my attention with its distorted guitars and May’s vocals rough yet silky at the same time, creating a siren’s song of rockabilly standards; her voice on this track will enchant you, turning this into a must-have for the ipod when on the go.
I swear I’ve never heard another woman say ‘Hey!’, ‘Woah-oh-oh’ or ‘Ow!’ quite like her. The band create a great 50’s feeling throughout, bringing the listener into a day-dream of a stunning lady singing on stage to a crowd of swell kids, guys and girls with their sweethearts and swing-dancing aplenty to the faster tempos.
‘Kentish Town Waltz’ sets an entirely different feeling from the first three bouncy songs, bringing us into the slightly more soft-jazz side of the band, with May’s vocals lulling us completely into puddle form, undulating with softness and love and lolling on a sea of soft guitar. It creates a beautiful, almost Chet Baker feel with a feminine tweak and a country twinge to it. Stunning song, truly....full text
BbcAlthough rock’n’roll is readily associated with hotly wired vocalists, it is also a genre in which musicians can take pride of place, primarily because the genre grew from rhythm & blues, which itself was partially shaped by the input of great players who’d been blooded in big bands. Imelda May’s engaging third album makes this point in no uncertain terms.
As much as she is the star of the show, the group that supports her is well on the money, with the drums-double bass axis of Steve Rushton and Al Gare locking down the walking blues lines impressively while trumpeter Dave Priseman provides concise, wistful interjections that occasionally have a mariachi grace to them. But the key member of the band is arguably guitarist Darrel Higham, whose wiry rhythmic lines and growling, tremolo-wobble chords are a potent foil to May’s gutsy contralto.
The London-based Dubliner is an imperious, take-no-prisoners personality who can certainly electrify a tune with the tigerish yelps and whoops that run deep into the marrow of the blues. In fact, on the moodier pieces, May has a tone that slightly recalls Carmel, the singer whose raw, somber songs have aged well in the past two decades. Like Carmel, May writes the bulk of the material and impresses with both melody and lyric, none more so than the hard times chronicle of Kentish Town Blues, which smartly distills the realities of life at the low end of the social scale, right down to "those stews that lasted three days into four"....full text
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