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Abbe May - Howl & Moan + Hoodoo You Do (2008/2009)

Abbe May (pronounced Abby) is a vixen of vocal energy who hails from the west Australian capital of Perth. Backed by her aptly named band “The Rockin’ Pneumonia”, Abbe May’s debut release is a juxtaposition of scorching guitar blues riff and soft ukulele driven ballads, and ended up winning the 2007 WAMI award (never heard of it? Its ok, neither have I).

The album opens with the guitar fuzz assault of the title track “Howl & Moan”. Consisting of Abbe May’s distinct and powerful voice addressing the prospect of marriage, and how “he’s the only one”. ‘The Rockin Pneumonia’ highlight the vocal delivery with the savage bursts of heavy guitar solo’s and the savage drumming. The high energy of the album is continued on the next track “You Gonna Get It”, a rollicking journey to the pub to listen to the local band, and then complain that they’re playing to loud.

After the fast pace of the previous tracks, things slow down with the mellow country ballad “We’ll Take A Trip Up The Country” which features backing vocals from male band member KT Rumble, giving the song a pleasant dreamy feel. The comically named “Costanza” is a reference to Seinfeld (I Can’t Stand You). Featuring a solid riff and simple beat, it is driven by Abbe’s sultry delivery of pained lyrics like “I still love you/but there ain’t no hope/and I’d hang myself/if I had enough rope”. Cap it off with a belting solo and you have the first single from the album.

Tracks “Ma” and “Old River” seem to blend together towards the middle of the album, after the previous track they are very soft acoustic ditties (“Old River” even has a whistle solo) and seem somewhat out of place at this stage of the album. “A Blackout In Your Town” is a ominous death ballad with Zeppelin like guitars and vocals, accompanied by the lyrics ‘I Smoked enough/than I really should’.

What better way to extenuate the soft-loud dynamic of the songs on this album than to have a sea-faring ballad played on ukulele? “Storm” is calming tale of bad weather retreating back out over the ocean, backed by a deep double bass and Abbe’s crooning voice floating away into the distance. You pick up the album for some rocking tracks, and then you are captured by the softness and beauty of this elegant piece.

“Sidesteppin’” is another short track that doesn’t seem to quite fit in with how it is positioned on the album, but provides a gently transition and build up from “Storm” to the next track.

The album ends with the dark, eerie sounds of “Lay Me Down”. Vibrato guitars echo out as the lead is laid down, building up the chorus breaks which are just pure explosions of guitar burst and static.

This album is best played whilst driving down the highway at obscene speeds, or while sitting around at home trying to polish of that scotch bottle, but never both at once. (sputnikmusic.com)

Born in a small town, educated under the spell of organised religion and maturing in the spotlight of rock’n’roll. It’s a formula that can be seen in the icons of yore – Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, to name but a trivial sample. It’s fitting therefore that Perth singer, songwriter and blues-rock aficionado Abbe May takes her artistic cues from the original rock’n’roll community. Having cut her teeth in Perth garage rock band The Fuzz, May now pursues her own musical interests, initially with the Rockin’ Pneumonia, and subsequently via the Devil and Abbe May project.

May grew up in the West Australian town of Bunbury, south of Perth. “It’s a pretty small city,” she says. “It was a conservative place, but my parents weren’t particularly conservative.” By her teenage years, she had adopted an androgynous appearance that gradually set her apart from other Bunbury teenagers. It was in these early years – as a self-confessed outsider – that May first discovered the blues. Celebrating the margins of society, the blues provided immediate inspiration. “It wasn’t as if I was like a black slave in a white society,” May jokes, “but there was something in the blues that I was attracted to.”

Later, May moved to Perth where she shared a house with her brother KT Rumble, who was playing in The Fuzz. She was quickly drafted in on vocal duties. “By the time I got to Perth, The Fuzz had been going for four or five years. I moved to Perth, moved in with my brother and joined his band.”

While The Fuzz provided May with her initial rock’n’roll education, May gradually began to desire greater independence and autonomy in her artistic direction. “A band is very much a co-dependent relationship,” she says, “and there’s a point when that relationship breaks down. Up until I went out on my own I was doing someone else’s songs, but I was increasingly developing my own style.”

May put together a backing band, the Rockin’ Pneumonia, which took its name from her love of 1950s rock’n’roll. “The phrase ‘rockin’ pneumonia’ is used by Chuck Berry [“I got the rockin’ pneumonia/I need a shot of rhythm and blues” from ‘Roll Over Beethoven’],” she says. “I suppose my interpretation of that is that ‘I’ve got the blues’”. The name is also linked to her desire to invoke the spirit of the original rock’n’rollers – and their country cousins. “The Rockin’ Pneumonia started out as hokey, bluesy, country stuff,” she says.

In 2007, May released her debut album with the Rockin’ Pneumonia, Howl and Moan, a caustic and invigorating take on blues rock. Despite the blues’ occasionally misogynistic tendencies, May says being a female artist was never a problem. “It’s never been a problem, ‘cause I sing like a man,” she quips. “But it’s also really important to remember that there’s lots of great blues singers, like Lucy Bogan. It’s no different to other fields that are dominated by men. Although it’s still largely a patriarchal society, I haven’t found any major problems. I’m just engaging in some subversive resistance – tongue-in-cheek, of course.”

May’s other recent project is The Devil and Abbe May, a darker, more intense and slightly cathartic take on the blues and its suggested irreligious character. “The Devil and Abbe May is far closer to rock’n’roll as it started out,” she says. Initially conceived as two parts of the same project, May decided that The Devil and Abbe May warranted its own expression separate from the Rockin’ Pneumonia. “By the time I finished touring Howl and Moan, I realised that I wanted to keep them separate. I suppose the distinction is that The Devil is more nostalgia blues, whereas Rockin’ Pneumonia is more my Blues Explosion. Basically, they’re two sides of my writing.”

Both projects see May draw from her own background, particularly her religious education. Born to a Catholic mother and Protestant father (who eventually converted to Catholicism after dabbling with various other denominations), May attended a Catholic school and was immersed in the various tenets of the religion. She admits her Catholic education plays a part in her music. “Very much so,” she explains. “The teachings really thrive on guilt, and I spent a long time under the thumb of Catholic guilt. The whole Devil album is about throwing off that guilt.” May’s upbringing has also played an important role in constructing her perspective on the world. “It ended up with me being spiritual, rather than religious,” she says. “It has had a massive impact on me, because it made me aware of the scriptures and the nexus between religions.”

As for the extent to which her songs are personal, May takes a bet each way. “Even if I try to write in an impersonal manner, the songs always tend to have an element of self-expression. Even if the songs aren’t supposed to be about me, then I still I have to find someone to have an element of the self in there.”

The Rockin’ Pneumonia have just released their latest record, the Hawaiian Disease EP. After completing a national tour to promote the record, May aims to head back into the studio to record her next album, which she claims will be a major deviation from both Howl and Moan and Hawaiian Disease. “The next album is going to be completely different,” she says. “The working title is ‘Sexorcism’ – it’s got bits of Prince-style melodies and afro-beats. I’m making it virtually unrecognisable from what I’ve done so far.”

For the time being, May is happy to remain in Perth. She’s positioned herself neatly in the local independent music scene and recently guested on a recent release for the Painkillers (James Baker and Joe Bludge). “I’d like to make Perth my base,” May says. “I’ve got a lot of ties here and there’s lots of great people. I’m hoping to get overseas next year. The records are starting to make profits now, so that should help in getting overseas”.

Fuckin' hoodoo-voodoo-bloozy-garage stuf. Strongly recommended.

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3 komentarze:

Ankh pisze...


Anonimowy pisze...

Świetna płyta. Dzięki za rekomendację.
Ogólnie, genialny i barzdo potzebny twój blog
a takiego blues abarzdo lubię, surowego jak pierwszy numer na howl and moan
wokal pod wzgledem barwy przypomina mi czasem patti smith czasem pj harvey
barzdo dobre granie.
pozdrawiam i dziekuje

Anonimowy pisze...

Appreaciate for the work you have put into the article, this helps clear up some questions I had.

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