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Blues in the North West

Album review for 'Good Times'

On this, the band’s third album, of thirteen numbers, seven are originals, which are supplied by lead singer Zoe and (husband) Rob Koral, guitar; these numbers display the full and explosive range of the band which are; Si Genaro; harmonica, Pete Whittaker; Hammond organ, Rodney Teague; bass and Paul Robinson on drums; together they produce a crisp, clear and punchy sound that has serious rasping jazz inflections.

Zoe’s musical tastes and voice range are fully reflected in her choice of covers, as in Billie Holiday’s “Fine and Mellow,” her clipped enunciation moves between utter desolation and a reluctant helpless acceptance; something that Billie herself experienced and described only too well in her short, sad life. There is also a Nina Simone/ Shirley Bassey edginess that bellows out from the speakers and lingers in the air. The rich and sweetly mellow textured guitar work is juxtaposed with the brash, confidently striding Hammond that defiantly exudes a sixties feel that Georgie Fame defined so well.

Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman,” is given a sweaty and gritty soul revue workout with the organ, most definitely working overtime at the centre; there is even a passage in it that possesses a hint of the ‘Italian Job,’ theme tune. The edgy, grubby, low life harmonica playing is highly effective on numbers such as; “There’s Only You,” and “ I’ll Do Anything,” you can almost feel, the dirt on your collar.  “Take Me Back,” is most certainly a crowd pleaser with the infectious call and response chorus, while the jumping, swinging “If I Didn’t Sing I’d Cry,” is enjoyably propelled by an insistent harmonica/guitar riffing underneath Zoe’s high volume stabbing, staccato vocals in competition with an urgent hopping organ.

Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me Baby” is a lovely, easy paced shuffling stroll around with the entire band coming to the fore. The monumental centrepiece is the dramatic slowburning “Beatitudes,” an achingly, profound slowburner, with building, praising organ and guitar that climb to the zenith with Zoe leading the way.

A fine album!

words by: Brian Harman