I was immediately interested when I learned from the wonderful Blues songstress Ruby Tiger, that her dear friend and collaborator King Rollo had just released a solo album entitled Easy Street. Interested because last July, I met Rollo when Ruby kindly invited me to her debut EP launch party in Chichester, Sussex (see my blog #16), while he was still the guitarist with her band The Revelators; and I was very impressed by his guitar playing style – he’s a really nice bloke too!
Now Rollo is a self-confessed Bluesman through and through – and told me at that same gig, that ‘…if its got more than three chords, I want paying extra!’ He was jesting of course; as there is far more to this veteran guitarist / singer / song-writer, than a I-IV-V 12-Bar chord sequence! Anyone listening to the album would testify to that straight away.
Easy Street is a collection of eleven acoustic-based Blues / bluesy songs, mostly penned by the man himself, but with a few fine covers thrown in too. Rollo sings and plays all instruments (except drums on Track 10; by Dr. A).
The title track starts the album. Its an upbeat lively little number guaranteed to get your feet tapping; and has a nice electric lead. ‘Like A Dog’ follows. I’m guessing its a bit tongue-in-cheek lyrically – I liked it a lot. An arrangement of ‘Diving Duck’ is next. I’ve heard lots of versions of this old classic over the years – it seems everyone’s had a go at it – but Rollo puts his own unique stamp on it firmly enough, that’s for sure.
A cover of a JB Lenoir song ‘The Whale Swallowed Jonah’ is next up. Again, Rollo has made it his own to a great extent. Then its ‘On The Road’ for Track 5. There’s a lovely bit of bottleneck slide-work on this one, which lends the right ambience to this hobo-ish song.
‘A Need’ is a beautiful little Folky tune with a Bluesy feel about it. Lovely slide again too. In contrast to this, ‘The Back Slap Boogie’ is a fun Funky number, which sounds a bit like a parody of ‘The Hokey-Cokey’! Its the longest track in the collection too.
‘Walk With Me’ surprised me with its Spanish guitar style intro. Its a song which sounds like its musical influences are from European Folk; yet still Rollo’s vocals have a Blues inflection about them that makes it unique.
‘You Gotta Move’ is another old Blues staple which has been covered by everyone from Mississippi Fred McDowell, through The Stones, to Aerosmith. (I don’t even know who wrote it originally!) But of course, each artist is singular in their interpretation; and Rollo’s version is unique too.
Mark Knopfler’s ‘Fade To Black’ is a wonderful laid-back Blues; and it has been given a right royal King Rollo make-over here; with some excellent guitar work – a fine cover indeed. Finally, the collection ends with ‘Time In My Life’. It is a Rollo tune; more in the style of a Chicago Blues than an acoustic Delta song. Nice electric lead work; and a great finish to the album.
I’ve not seen a hard copy of the album, having had only a download to work with, so I can’t comment on the CD case. The album was recorded and mastered at Crunchtime in Portsmouth; and produced by Rollo himself. The very charming cover artwork is by Juliet Asher. All round; a fine job has been done on Easy Street.
This is the first of two excellent, and brand new acoustic Blues albums that I’ve been sent for review recently – the next being Martin McNeill’s Lately I’ve Let Things Slide which will be the subject of my next Blog: #53. (Coincidently, Martin also covers ‘You Gotta Move’). PTMQ
Here is a link to King Rollo’s website…. http://www.king-rollo.co.uk/