Album of the Week 35-2015: Imelda May – More Mayhem

Most Rockabilly revival artists are charming and entertaining, but so exclusively driven by nostalgia that they lack any relevance in the contemporary music industry. Imelda May avoids this pitfall with a more versatile approach to her – admittedly strongly old school – style. There’s a lot of Rockabilly, of course, but also hints of Jazz, Country and quite a healthy shot of Blues. In addition, miss May isn’t just a great singer, she’s a fantastic songwriter as well. All of this contributes to the fact that ‘More Mayhem’ – a reissue of her best album ‘Mayhem’ – manages to stay interesting all throughout its running time.

Why ‘More Mayhem’ then, you may ask? Why not just ‘Mayhem’? Well, first of all, ‘More Mayhem’ has ‘Road Runner’. With its driving rhythm and May’s irresistible lower register vocals, it is easily one of May’s best and most vibrant songs. The slow Blues ‘Blues Calling’ has a distinct New Orleans vibe that sets my heart on fire as well. Also, I might enjoy the remix of ‘Inside Out’ just a little more than its slightly slower original. So now we’ve only talked about the bonus tracks and we’ve already discussed three of the album’s highlights. That’s why!

Among the original album, there are quite a few moments of absolute brilliance as well. Quite a few of those are outside of May’s supposed comfort zone. ‘Proud And Humble’ doesn’t exactly sound out of place in terms of atmosphere, but the acoustic guitar parts seem to pay more tribute to May’s Irish heritage than her Rockabilly fascination. ‘All For You’ in all its sultriness and seduction sounds like it could have been one of those Jazzy show tunes from the 1930’s – and that roar in the chorus induces goosebumps. ‘Too Sad To Cry’ almost sounds like a funeral dirge, but May’s hertfelt delivery makes it beautiful.

Early on, ‘Let Me Out’ became one of my absolute favorites of Imelda May’s entire oeuvre. It rocks relatively hard; had it not been for Darrel Higham’s distinct reverb-drenched Rockabilly sound and the shuffle rhythms, it could have been a Gov’t Mule song. Higham churns out a great guitar solo as well. The song builds toward its amazing chorus fantastically. Also, May has been known for a number of fantastic covers of songs from the fifties and sixties. On this album, she comes close to Gloria Jones’ original of ‘Tainted Love’. Not as good as the original, but definitely the best cover of the song I’ve heard so far. ‘Pulling The Rug’ and ‘Mayhem’ are more familiar territory for May, but executed extremely well.

Lately, retro styles have been quite popular, but what makes a really good artist is to take the musical legacy that comes with your tastes and turn it into something of your own. Imelda May has understood that and although elements of her sound are extremely familiar, she consistently refuses to paint a musical picture that’s just true to nature, opting to go for something a bit more timeless instead. It has so far resulted in three good to incredible albums, with this one being the most allround satisfying listening experience.

Recommended tracks: ‘Let Me Out’, ‘Road Runner’, ‘All For You’

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