On Tuesday 8 May on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio at 21:00 GMT Pete Feenstra chats to Babajack More information
And suddenly they are back. Tribal roots and contemporary blues stylists Babajack return with a significant line-up change, with multi-instrumentalist Troy Redfern replacing the cigar box guitarist and harp player Trevor Steager.
The band appears refreshed, being on a mission to record some basic live tracks for a new album, while also stirring up a little magic in the company of their die-hard fans.
They emerge a little wiser from an unexpected lengthy break, and have worked their way to match fitness with two shows in Norway.
They’ve also re-aligned their musical focus which increasingly comes to rest on Becky Tate’s vocals. Her previously feverish percussion has now been reined in as a more integral part of the songs as a whole.
The material is still shot though with insistent rhythms – both staggered and staccato – and is voiced over cool dynamics with explosive resolutions.
Troy Redfern’s presence on an array of electric and acoustic guitars, dobro and bouzouki, ensures extra tone colours alongside lashings of slide.
Everything is subtly underpinned by bassist Adam Bertenshaw and drummer Tosh Murase who seamlessly lock into a groove and never substitute heaviness for sheer understated power.
The band veers towards familiar territory with ‘Back Door’ from their ‘Live Summer 2015′ album, which sets the musical template for an evening built on the sharp contrast between Becky’s emotive phrasing and the thunderous band parts which offer quasi-tension breaking resolutions.
And it’s that use of space, dynamics, a rainbow of tone colours and essential rhythms that gives Babajack their unique blend. Even when powerhouse drummer Tosh Murase sits out three songs in a row, there’s an unvoiced dynamic at play, which draws the listener into the space where you might imagine his thunderous rolls should be.
Becky fills the void with an African and Tongue drum to make an essential connection with the “tribal rhythms” that set this roots rock band apart from any of their contemporaries.
Babajack work hard at drawing the crowd in and hit bull’s-eye with a love song called ‘Falling Hard’, complete with a stuttering rhythmic arrangement. Becky is also back in the old routine with some hypnotic percussion on ‘The Tongue Drum Song’, as Troy adds a discernible eastern feel to the acoustic intro.
The band pushes into new horizons as they move from a sub waltz feel to a disguised tango, proving that whatever box you wish to pigeonhole them in, it’s a futile exercise given their penchant for following the vibe.
Becky mentions a ‘new energy’ and ‘a new era’, and allied with her world music view and the band’s contemporary take on early blues, you can feel a new direction emerging.
The restless ‘Coming Home’ from the ‘Running Man’ CD provides a real energy surge as the band stretch out, but then Becky draws us back into her lyrical craft with the very deeply felt ’800 Miles’.
It’s a song germane to our post Brexit times, but written about her uncle Tom a refugee who made the most of his life. It celebrates the human spirit writ large and makes the kind of connection that you suspect the band aimed for when they first thought about this showcase.
Their newer material is at times rough edged and even circumspect, though never short of spark. Tonight is a new beginning and given the benefit of plenty of gigs they should emerge with the kind of album only Babajack can make.
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Anne Pioton
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 20:00
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