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Album review: STEFAN BERGGREN – These Are The Times

STEFAN BERGGREN – These Are The TimesGrandjam Production [Release date 04.06.21] Stefan Berggren (Snakes in Paradise, Company of Snakes, Berggren Kerslake Band) is back with his latest solo album, following on from 2016’s ‘Strangers In A Strangeland’. Stefan Berggren (vocals, guitars, keyboards) is joined by fellow … Continue reading

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Elli de Mon: Countin’ The Blues – album review

 Elli de MonElli de Mon: Countin’ The Blues

(Area Pirata Records)

LP | CD | DL

Released 18th June 2021

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 4

 

Italian one-woman blues-garage band salutes the queens of the blues with an inspired selection of interpretations on her sixth album.

Lately, there has been an influx of tribute albums, artists paying their respects to the bands that formed their own styles. From well-known names like Gang Of Four, to underground bands like Subsonics, reverence and homage seem to be the order of the day. To that list, we can now add Italian blues-garage singer Elli de Mon, who, on her new album Countin’ The Blues, shares her versions of some of the great female blues artists of the 1920s.

She starts of the record with a fantastic version of Ma Rainey’s Prove It On Me Blues, her slide guitar work winding out over a stomping rhythm, injected with a full distorted grit that suits the song perfectly. It’s a dose of dirt that lends itself well when she takes on Lucille Bogan’s Shave ‘Em Dry. I can only but imagine the shock and horror on the face of a young Mary Whitehouse as a teenager hearing the lyrics coming from the speakers. On this version, the fuzz is pushed through the floor to create a dense danger over which de Mon rasps howls and wails. She’s in pure Kills territory and it’s fantastic.

While her guitar work lends itself excellently to the songs, it’s often her voice that is the true star. She uses it to great effect on the introduction to Bessie Smith’s Blue Spirit Blues, substituting the original’s haunting piano line with a low hushed hum and ghostly harmonies, acapella until the menacing guitar seeps in. The song builds slowly, the intensity gradually increasing until it’s bringing down the house. On Victoria Spivey’s Dope Head Blues she brings in a create sitar line and backing, creating something completely otherworldly and captivating.

While the first side of the album takes the inspiration of these Blues queens and shifts their work squarely into the fuzzed-out darkness of dirty garage, de Mon knows that, in showing respect to these legends, she must also take the songs at times for what they were. In that vein, the second side sees her sticking much closer to the original styles of her chosen covers. The choice to do so serves as a perfect reminder that she herself does in no way need to hide her talent within the distortion and that, stripped back to an acoustic guitar, her talent can still make an incredible impact.

Her arpeggio fingerpicking on Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train is sublime, as is her voice, sweet and perfect with some wonderful tumbling phrasing. She does a real spirited sliding version of Lottie Kimbrough’s Wayward Girl Blues and, while it may have been popularised more by Led Zeppelin, her version of Memphis Minnie’s When The Levee Breaks surpasses that driving rock version through retaining the original’s sensibility before closing out with a wonderful version of Betha ‘Chippie’ Hill’s Trouble In Mind. Those who go for the vinyl version will also get a hypnotic version of Geeshie Wiley’s Last Kind Words. It’s certainly more in the style of the first half of the record, breathing a whole new lease of life into the song, stripped of virtually all recognisability.

Whether reinvented and reworked or sticking close to the originals, de Mon manages to bring a new life to the songs on Countin’ The Blues, one that will no doubt bring these classics to a whole new audience.

Follow Elli de Mon on Facebook and Instagram.

~

Words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.

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Album review: STEPHEN FOSTER & HOWLER – Southern

Stephen Foster & Howler - SouthernThoroughbred Music [Release date 21.04.21] With a career spanning Americana, r&b, blues, rock, country, zydeco, gospel, folk and even electronica, Stephen Foster has plenty of scope to dive into his southern roots for an album full of swampy grooves, strong narratives, … Continue reading

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Gig review: PAPA GEORGE AND VAL COWELL- Cabbage Patch, Twickenham, 28 May 2021

PAPA GEORGE AND VAL COWELL- Cabbage Patch, Twickenham, 28 May 2021A return to normality for gigging is a long way off, just witness the continuing cancellation or postponements of shows into 2022. However at least lockdown has lifted enough for a few socially distanced shows to resume. Last autumn I … Continue reading

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News: CARAVAN, DONNIE IRIS, DOWNLOAD (June 2021)

Caravan - Great British Rock & Blues Festival 2015Caravan (pictured above) have announced they will release a  37-disc deluxe box set, ‘Who Do We Think We Are?’, on August 20 through Madfish Records. District 97 vocalist Leslie Hunt will release a brand new EP, ‘Ascend’, through Spirit Of Unicorn Records … Continue reading

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Album review: KAI STRAUSS – In My Prime

Kai Strauss - In My Prime Continental Record Services [Release date 20.11.20] Kai Straus’s aptly titled album ‘I’m In My Prime’ sees him updating traditional blues styles from Chicago to the West Coast, while confirming his own impressive elements of tone, taste and feel. Strauss is … Continue reading

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Album review: QUINN SULLIVAN – Wide Awake

QUINN SULLIVAN – Wide AwakeProvogue Records [Release date 04.06.21] The 21-year-old Massachusetts singer-songwriter Quinn Sullivan has been touring the world since he was 11-years-old! Appearing at venues such as Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl and RFK Stadium in Washington D.C., as well as … Continue reading

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Album review: BILLY F GIBBONS – Hardware

Billy F Gibbons - Hardware  Concord [Release date 04.06.21] Billy F Gibbons new album ‘Hardware’ is a return to his rock-a-boogie template, but with a contemplative feel born of the band’s isolated recording environment in the Mojave desert. There’s always something consistently familiar about … Continue reading

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Album review: IAGO BANET – Iago Banet

Iago Banet - Iago BanetRazor Edge Records [Release date 07.11.2o] Anglo-Spanish guitarist Iago Banet has all the right credentials for an acoustic guitarist. He’s Galician born (in the North West of Spain) and is equally at home on acoustic and electric guitar, though this … Continue reading

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Album review: VOODOO ROOM – Tension City Blues

Voodoo Room - Tension City BluesGrooveyard records [Release date: 27 Nov 2020] This is one of those projects when the stars align and the perfect power trio teams ends up on a guitar driven label whose gods are guitars slingers such as Jimi Hendrix and … Continue reading

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