Lock Stock And Barrel [Release date 29.12.14]
Never The Bride are back with their most accessible album ever, the hard hitting but musically slick ‘Jealousy’. The band tells us it’s ‘A Tribute to Transatlantic Rock and Blues Pioneers’, and its an album that should bring the considerable talents of vocalist Nikki Lamborn and the keyboard playing composer Catherine Feeney (aka Been) into wider focus.
The tricky thing about a covers album though, is that you have to bring something new to the party or risk having every note compared to the original.
Happily, Never The Bride come armed with adventurous arrangements and a top class band to make their mark. They put their own spin on a batch of songs from the classic rock era, save for Melissa Etheridge’s ‘Like The Way I Do’ from 1988. The latter is a highlight, and the magnificent arrangement perfectly frames Nikki’s emotive phrasing, backed by Been’s rolling piano lines and Fergus Gerrand’s delightful percussion. It’s also the moment when the band really comes into it’s own to give the material a contemporary edge.
In her liner notes, Nikki mentions that choosing a batch of covers wasn’t easy, and you suspect that the opening choice of J.J. Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ was identified as the best way to lever us into a classic rock project such as such as this.
Also by opting for Frankie Miller ‘Jealousy’, they immediately put themselves up for comparison with a raft of similar covers from Maggie Bell and Bettye LaVette to the more recent effort from Joanne Shaw Taylor and King King. No problems though, as Nikki nails the song with a passionate performance framed by a booming arrangement, including a gorgeous piano line from Been, distant strings and a searing Clem Clempson guitar solo.
The album opens with ‘Cocaine’, which is given an idiosyncratic, conspiratorial whisper by Nikki, while ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ impacts with lashings of guitar and violin, before she explodes with a typical ferocious vocal attack.
‘Feel Like Making Love’ sounds like a cornerstone to the band’s live set, and features one of Nikki best vocals on a sumptuous arrangement. The song is bolstered by choral bv’s, Been’s Chuck Leavell style piano line and Sally Jo’s violin break resolution. The track showcases the band’s musical abilities and more generally reconfirms the enduring qualities of Classic Rock.
How to follow that? Simple, they play to their strengths and focus solely on Nikki’s voice on the intro of a timely nod to Janis Joplin on ‘Me And Bobby McGee’. In an age when the concept of an album has long been ditched for the immediate gratification of individual downloaded tracks, it’s great to come across a thoughtfully sequenced album full of sparkling dynamics, as part of a purposeful journey through classic rock, the country tinged Janis and then the soulful gut busting Lorraine Ellison classic ‘Stay With Me Baby.’
It’s a measure of Nikki’s effortless range and versatility that she barely pauses for breath to soar majestically over all three styles before a contrasting cool intro to another highlight ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’.
The surprise here is the deliberately stuttered hook which brings extra emotional impact over an unexpected percussion line.
’Jealousy’ eloquently resurrects a bunch of juke box classics on the band’s own terms, with a mix of passionate playing, original arrangements and Nikki heartfelt vocals. This is particularly so on ‘We Gotta Get Outta This Place’, as Nikki soars above Clem’s slashed chords
Clempson also excels on the Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and adds slide guitar over Elliot Mortimer’s Hammond on AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (‘If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll’). And while it doesn’t quite have the edge of Stacey Collins’s cover, it does provide a rocking finish to an excellent album. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00
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