Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bittersweet - and it gets under your skin.

It is arguably harder to review this album than most other things if for one reason only; it just so happens that Sloe Jam is a band from these parts - Somerset, UK and that defines it about as poorly as could be imagined - the cross-genre magnificence of the Glastonbury Festival defines music better than the Wurzels could ever hope to. It would be easy if I could say they were 'Scrumpy & Western' or just another pub-band but fortunately they are not.

For a start Next To The Skin consists only of original compositions and, while I have no issue with judicious covers, that is worthy of note and at eleven tracks (49 minutes) is it not short but certainly never overstays its welcome. The band is tight and the production as clean as it needs to be but still quite unforced.
When global warming means that the Somerset Levels again resemble a delta at least there is the soundtrack to go with it and a far bigger stage than this surely beckons....

Sloe Jam, live at the Frome Festival, on a damp 5 July 2008.

Stand-out tracks? That's hard to say, but possibly 'Believe In Magic', 'A Wanderer, She Said' and 'Open More Wine'.
Or try it this way instead and it is a very rash suggestion indeed: play an Eric Clapton album, each track interleaved with one from 'Next To The Skin', and just listen...
They are in no way the same but try and imagine what it might have sounded like if Clapton had a female co-vocalist and Pee Wee Ellis guesting on saxophone...
I did exactly that - using 'Unplugged' as the Clapton album - and now I really understand why they don't do covers. If you want to spoil yourself and also baffle your blues-rock loving friends then this album is mandatory
and on two tracks Pee Wee Ellis really does play saxophone!

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