Review: Brett Marvin & The Thunderbolts – Stranger Than Strange

Posted on: Saturday, Nov 22, 2014

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Review for BRETT MARVIN & THE THUNDERBOLTS – CD – ‘Stranger Than Strange’ – Nov 2014 Sun House Records

Well what can I say? What a brilliant album from a multi mix of musicians. Brett Marvin & The Thunderbolts have pulled out all the stops on this CD, ‘Stranger Than Strange’. All Thundebolts, past and present, appear on the album, as does the superb musicianship of Mel Collins (King Crimson), Neil Hubbard (Roxy Music), Duffy Power, Les Davidson, Annie Whitehead, Jenifer Maidman, Tony O’Malley, and the famous Kokomo singers. A great extended line up that brings with it brilliant musicianship with a wide variety of instrumental input.

Describing themselves as having a “unique Delta influenced country blues style” I can definitely hear the influences of Captain Beefheart and the Rolling Stones giving us a mix of Southern Rock, Americana and rockabilly, with plenty of stomp, boogie and a dash of skiffle. Most of the tracks on the album are self penned.

The first track ‘Shot In The Back’ gives a great sound musically having an Americana flavour with superb vocals and slide guitar. Next a slow rockin’ blues ‘Thoughts Of You’, with a super guitar solo, great slide guitar and vocals. ‘Stranger Than Strange’ and the name sake of the album, is probably one of my favourite tracks. Full on washboard, slide and stomp, love it. A brilliant bluesy track with an essence of Beefheart and cacophony of sounds.

A track with a vaudeville feel ‘Blue Boar Inn’, gives us washboard, zobstick kazoo, piano and slide, superb. Then a classic Slim Harpo number ‘King Bee’, described as ‘swamp blues’ has a zydeco influence and a great sound.

Getting into the ‘stomp’ with a bit of bluegrass flavour, on the individual Skip James number, ‘If You Haven’t Any Hay’. Then we get ‘a rockin’ with some honky tonk rhythm & blues .. there goes that kazoo again … with ‘Keep On Moving’. A change now with a funky, jazzy number ‘The Night’, with some tight, tight percussion, killer bass, super sexy sax and a touch of full on Hammond. Great vocal renditions too. Love it!

Another funky number, done with a ‘tongue in cheek’, ‘Got My Mobile Working’ with some interesting percussion and great backing vocals and brass input. A change again on Skip James’s ‘Cherry Ball’ with acoustic slide, a super track giving us blues with a bluegrass feel. The penultimate track ‘So Tired’ is a slow, down to earth 12 bar blues with excellent piano, slide guitar, harmonica and alternative percussion, superbly raw.

The final track on this exceptional album is an instrumental with rockin’ boogie piano and great raw slide with the percussion keeping the tight rhythms with the bass. What a great end to an excellent album.

The band have a history going back some 46 years and a ‘Rockumentary’ is being filmed by Jack Slipper to plot their existence over the years and when working with such legends as Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup, John Mayall and Eric Clapton et al.

ROSY GREER – Lancashire Blues Archive and Independent Reviewer

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