Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, so the saying goes. So too does the chorus of the opening song, and title track of Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra’s new album. Within these 45 minutes of western swing, country ballads, Tom Waitsian instrumentalism and cross-cultural Americana jambalaya goodness, you will find all these things.
Something Blue is the story of a romance gone wrong, and a wedding dress for sale at a bargain price, tinged with the jazzy end of country music, soaked in bourbon and beer. Indeed, everything on this album has the reek of authenticity about it. A fresh faced bunch of youngsters, ex-students of the Folk degree at Newcastle University, sounding as grizzled and soulful as any number of Lousiana street corner musicians.
Still go Honky Tonkin’ swings like Hank, whilst having both feet firmly in the UK. An English song about not being authentically American, whilst sounding resolutely and authentically American? They can indeed go Honky Tonkin’ if they want to, and have their cake and eat it to boot…
Honest Man continues with some great brass licks and slinky steel guitar. Blue collar big band anyone? Yes please. And add some deft harmonica to taste.
All through this album, everything is just RIGHT. The right level of cheesiness in the lyrical wordplay, just the right amount of slapback echo on the guitar stabs, just the right amount of accordion sparkle on the top.
Cocktails, inebriated dancers, compulsive kleptomania, good men done bad, and bad men done good, all are here in these 12 tracks. But this isn’t a dark album by any stretch of the imagination. Put it in on the car stereo, wind the window down, and PLAY LOUD. From the roadhouse blues of Hundreds of Miles to the slinky, Spike Jones jazz of Cats and Chickens, this album brings a smile to my face and a song to my lips. If you don’t end up singing along, I suspect you might actually have stopped breathing…
The album ends with the ‘all around one mic in the middle of the room’ gospel holler of The Devil Wears a Blue Tie, possibly my favourite political commentary in a while. ‘The devil is a greedy man, oh yeah, and tramples on the needy man, oh yeah…’ Not a song to pull its punches. And it is all the better for it.
Hank did it like this. So did Sinatra. So did Tom Waits. So did John Lee Hooker. Mix these influences with a healthy dose of youthful enthusiasm, a real passion and an ear for detail, sheer authenticity, and a good slug of both Scotch and Bourbon, and you might find that the results are very much to your taste. They are certainly to mine.
Something Blue is out now via Tea Pad Recordings