Kerri Simpson & the Belmar Playboys
Kerri Simpson - 4am
On the third album in her Knockin’ at the Backdoor series, Simpson set about recording some retro R&B party tunes – no rehearsal, writing lyrics on the spot, just the musical bond between herself and the players. Recorded at long-time musical collaborator Steve Purcell’s Belmar studios by Altona beach on Tuesday nights … after a long day at work, food and wine flowing … Simpson was joined by Mark Grunden, Dean Hilson, Dai Jones, Shannon Bourne and Andrew Ogburn. The result is a hoodoo hoe down, swampy southern funk and tasty uptown shuffles.
Tying it all together is the musicians’ mutual love of New Orleans music, their shared playing experiences in the Crescent City. There are no fancy studio tricks here, just glorious Lo Fi.
Purcell’s vision for Belmar is to record and document the local fringe blues and jazz scene that he has been part of for many years just as it was done in years gone by.
The Belmar Playboys’ collective wealth of experience bursts through every track on this album. Rambunctious guitar solos from Dai Jones and Shannon Bourne, sensuous tenor sax from Dean Hilson, solid Crescent City synchronicity from Andrew Ogburn, all held together by the the groove masters Mark Grunden and Steve Purcell in the rhythm section.
REVIEW - STACK MAGAZINE
reviewer: BRIAN WISE - Rhythms - Album of the month DECEMBER 2013
Kerri Simpson falls into that ever- burgeoning category of indepen- dent musicians in Australia who have earned the respect of their peers, have kept producing excellent record- ings but, through the vagaries of the modern music industry, seem unable to reach a wider audience. One of Simp- son's triumphs is that after more than twenty years she is still putting out quality albums like this new one.
Simpson's previous album, Fortune Favoured Me, released in 2012, was a great collection of original songs penned by Simpson as well as in collaboration with Jeff Lang, Geoff Achison, Shannon Bourne. There were also some well-cho- sen covers of songs from Stephen Cum- mings, Charles Jenkins and Cyndi Boste (who has her own terrific new album out at the moment). It is worth searching out if you missed it at the time. Perhaps the new album, 4AM, will inspire that search, but it is very different musical beast.
4AM is pitched firmly at a blues audience, which is possibly a good thing because it should at least create a lot of interest in that community and, by rights, get Simp- son booked on the bill at blues and roots festival around the country (Hint!).
The album comprises nine original songs written by Simpson, who shows that she is no slouch as a writer of blues and R&B oriented material. In fact, her blues cre- dentials are considerable and her album Confessin' The Blues was nominated for an ARIA, after which some writers
dubbed her Australia's Queen of The Blues. Simpson has lived in New Orleans and remains one of the few Australians to appear at Jazz Fest. It would hardly be surprising if quite a few other acts covered the songs on 4AM. It would be even better if someone like Bonnie Raitt picked up on it, but that is wishful think- ing.
4AM is the third album in Simpson's Knockin At The Backdoor series and she set about recording some retro R&B party tunes for it. Simpson says that there was little or no rehearsal for the record- ing, that she was writing lyrics on the spot and that the most important aspect of the project was the musical bond between herself and the players – as talented a bunch of musos that you could possibly find for this project. Simpson is joined by drummer Mark Grunden, saxophon- ist Dean Hilson, guitarists Dai Jones and Shannon Bourne, keyboardist Andrew Ogburn and several other guest horn players. They sound fantastic.
The album was apparently recorded at long-time musical collaborator Steve Purcell's Belmar Studios by Altona beach "on Tuesday nights after a long day at work, food and wine flowing." Purcell uses ADAT digital machines and is cer- tainly able to capture the warmth of an analogue ambience. It is one of the best sounding local blues records you are likely to hear this year. There is a perfect balance between the instruments and the vocals (and Simpson also sounds marvellous).
All of which would be pointless and largely academic if the songs were not as strong as they are here. There are quite a few absolutely outstanding songs on 4AM, kicking off with the slow, bluesy title track featuring Shannon Bourne's strident guitar and powerful soloing. 'Twanging A New Tune' sounds like a song from the Jimmie Vaughan catalogue. 'For The Last Time' continues the driving upbeat mood in fine style. 'Outta Sight Outta Mind' opens with a piano lead and continues with a funky New Orleans feel. 'Come On Babe' finds Simpson in slow burn-ing ballad mode. Later, another ballad 'Keep Me Close' adopts a distinctive soul groove. It's back to New Orleans for 'All My Tomorrows' with its horn section and loping rhythm. The jump blues of 'I'm Gone' closes the album and again fea- tures some brilliant guitar playing from Jones. Simpson will launch 4am at the Caravan Club in Oakleigh on March 21.