KnocKin' at the bacKdoor #2
Fortune Favoured Me
Kerri SiMpSon & the prodigal SonS
fortune favoured me
Red Eye Sydney
Greville Records Prahran
Loud Music Lakes Entrance
Kerri Simpson likens her latest musical offering Fortune Favoured Me to a fine whisky, its subtle tones and delicate flavours have taken a while to produce but the result was worth the wait. Simpson's music seeps into the listener's psyche and – as is her custom, no matter what the genre – every note takes the listener on a journey across the depth and breadth of emotion. Simpson's voice "soars and rages with a power like a hurricane that could sink the entire US navy", wrote Sam Fell of Rhythms magazine.
Fortune Favoured Me is the latest installment of her 'Knockin' at the Back Door' series, which she kicked off with the country tinged classic Maybe by Midnight. With a recording grant from Thirty Mill studios and the able assistance of her long-time associates, The Prodigal Sons, Simpson invited friends to drop by and lay down a track. But these ain't no ordinary friends, and this ain't no country album. Some seriously stellar guitar slingers and songwriting heavyweights took up the offer. Take a studio in Brunswick, add Dean Addison, Geoff Achison, Kylie Auldist, Shannon Bourne, Jaimi Faulkner, Nichaud Fitzgibbon, Ben Grayson, Mark Grunden, Charles Jenkins, Jeff Lang, Andrew Ogburn, Andrew Pendlebury, Chris Rogers, Ron Tabuteau, Matt Walker, Paul Williamson, sprinkle a lil' hoodoo, capture each player's essence and what you get is a magnificent slice of Melbourne.
Simpson's impressive production skills intertwine each guests distinctive sound with her own to create new and fresh directions. It's evident every player is master or mistress of their chosen instrument. Simpson exposes her inimitable vocal command on the sublime title track, penned by Charles Jenkins. Her voice is as fragile and delicate as love gone wrong itself. Batten down the hatches for 'Howl', where Simpson and Jeff Lang battle it out in a monumental tale of betrayal and channel their inner Jimi and Janis. Geoff Achison and Simpson's respective command of the blues idiom is evident in bucket loads on the cruisy, soulful 'One Time Round' which Achison laid down between tours to the US. She enlisted Andrew Pendlebury to serve up raw suburban angst for their interpretation of 'She set fire to the house'. Shannon Bourne's penchant for stark, experimental, guttural sounds compliments Simpson's tantalising, taunting lyrics on 'Mr Wolf' and 'Insatiable'.
Simpson's flair for production seeps through each track, but none more so than on 'Silver's Last Stand', the evocative homage to black cowboys penned with the mighty Matt Walker. His mastery of ambient soundscapes provides an exquisite backdrop to Simpsons plaintive musing, "Don't you know cowboys have trouble walking by the time they're forty, so they say, this life might seem enticing but it's hard out on the range".
Simpson, tongue firmly in cheek, tips an hilarious hat off to her beloved New Orleans with the saucy shanty 'Pirates are a girl's best friend'. Set in Pirates Alley, the songs outlines a "conversation" between a gentleman of the high seas and a lady from the Storyville red light district, peppered with a smattering of hoodoo and hijinks. Long-time associates Ron Tabuteau, Dean Addison, Mark Grunden and Ben Grayson show the extraordinary range of their respective talents as they effortlessly traverse genres.
The trademark slamming of the backdoor ends Simpson's majestic vignette of Melbourne's inner city sounds.
GRAHAM BLACKLEY - BEAT MAGAZINE - JAN 2013
Kerri Simpson, a wonderfully soulful singer adept at embracing a host of musical genres with aplomb, is renowned for her skilled contributions to blues ‘n’ roots, world, rock and dance. Her eclecticism shines on the earthy Fortune Favoured Me, an album glittering with highlights. On the quietly elegant title track, written by that legendary Ice Cream Hand Charles Jenkins, Simpson’s gentle vocals are the perfect match for the tender lyrics and the evocative music. One Time Round features slinky, loose-hipped guitar, a light and funky rhythmic touch and bourbon-kissed vocals, while the aptly named Howl is a surging seething stomper that slithers seductively out of the swamp combusting with an animalistic fervour bordering on the supernatural. If You Don’t Know By Now is edgy and urgent alt-country infused rock characterised by a beefy chorus and a bucket load of passion. She Set Fire To The House is punctuated by expressive lead guitar that captures and channels the emotional currents of the song perfectly. Cry Down, which features robust backing vocals by Kylie Auldist and Nichaud Fitzgibbon and sassy sax by Paul Williamson, is a stripped back soulful gem that has an exciting live-in-the-studio feel. Insatiable is a swamp rock powerhouse that sizzles with incendiary guitar and pulsating rhythms while Mr Wolf is darkly atmospheric. The jaunty Pirates Are A Girl’s Best Friend is underpinned at times by a rhythm that is not too far from ska, yet this intriguing song also manages to incorporate elements of jazz and a playful musical theatre vibe. This magical album closes with Silver’s Last Stand, a haunting, wide-screen epic, that is entrancingly filmic in feel and approach.
ON RECORd - Rhythms - December 2012
kErrI sIMPsON CONTINuEs hEr KnocKin' at the BacK dooR sErIEs, wITh ThE rElEasE Of ITs sECOND INsTallMENT.
bY ChrIs laMbIE
From crop fields and front porches to church choirs and speakeasies, roots music has always been about community; a shared celebration of the good times and comfort in times of trouble. Like most of her peers, Kerri Simpson punctuates solo work with wide-ranging collaborations. In the familiar company of backing band The Prodigal Sons, the Melbourne singer invited a stellar lineup of mates to sit in on her latest recording.
"As a working musician, just by its very nature, you play different styles with different people. So my idea was, why not record like that as well?" Simpson explains.
Thanks to a recording grant from Colin Wynne's Thirtymill studios, the petite singer with the powerhouse tonsils put down a stack of tracks for what was to become her Knockin' At The Back Door series. First release Maybe By Midnight (2008), featured the many shades of country. New one, Fortune Favoured Me, delivers a range of rock and roots influences with guest guitarists and songwriters along for the ride.
"I didn't quite know which style to do, so I thought, 'Why don't I take on a big project, record all this stuff, then do it genre by genre?' You don't want to make an album with all those guys and then not give them a guernsy. So I aimed to have their character and style in the songs with each still being something unique in itself. I called it Knockin' At The Back Door because it pays respect to all the genres that I love and that way, I got to play with everybody!
"With such a diverse bunch, each song is a little vignette in its own right. I hate making or listening to albums where everything sounds the same. If you have that time in the studio, my idea is to make the most artistic package that you can; making optimum use of the technology and production side of things. I like layering various elements so you might not really hear something [subtle] the first time around. The more you listen, the more you hear within the soundscape of the track. I love albums like David Bowie's Earthling. It's a whole lesson in production. You put it on and spend another twenty years working out how they did it. I love that manipulation of sound; that side of recording interests and excites me."
At the Melbourne launch of Fortune Favoured Me, the songstress was typi- cally 'in the zone', visibly immersed in each song's story. Band direction was not required. In recording sessions too, Prodigal Sons Ron Tabuteau, Dean Addison, Mark Grunden and Ben Grayson know how to lighten Simp- son's load.
"It's like one of those tribal exercises where you just let yourself fall down," she laughs. "They're right there, every beat, every note. Their mastery of instruments, knowing how to give it light and shade, when to blend, to be dramatic or pull right up... they understand me. We're all working off each other. Everybody gets some sort of creative say and I don't have to be explicit with them. It's all feel. Everything I do is based on feel one way or another. I'm so lucky to work with people in every aspect of my life who are really supportive and appreciative of what I do. Though it looks glamorous, it's a hard industry. So people want to help each other. 'Silver's Last Stand' (with Matt Walker) is predominantly about the history of black cowboys in the West, but about maverick musicians as well. We have incredible support and networks in Melbourne. You need 'em, kinda like unions."
The album strides from the funky to the fiery with co-writes, instrumentation and vocals from Jeff Lang, Geoff Achison, Shannon Bourne and Jaimi Faulkner among others. The title track features Charles Jenkins on piano. "I adore his songwriting and that he comes from such a different school of music than I do. He makes stunning choices about melody, chord progressions and phrasing. From the songs he sent me, that was the one I immediately fell in love with. I'd planned to sing it like an Eartha Kitt thing, very low, deep and bluesy. But Charles suggested I do it like a straight pop song. It's perfect for the song. Very simple, very basic but therein lies its beauty."
Meanwhile, Simpson's live schedule includes outings with The Ears (post-punk), Ray Pereira's Milton (Afro-Caribbean), Sheilas of The '70s (Monique Brumby and Rebecca Barnard), The Majestics (ska'n'soul) and The Gospel Belles. So far, Knockin' At The Back Door albums end with the sound of a door slamming. I look forward the opening of the next one.
Kerri Simpson has an astounding voice . She can sing a word such as 'underpants' till it belongs in a cathedral ! Ms. Simpson's new album "Fortune Favoured Me " confirms this spectacular vocal ability. It also shows her taste and judgement in how to use such a voice. From pure power to a purr , it's not the technique that grabs the listener, impressive though that is, but the genuine humanity that shines through each markedly different tune. Kerri Simpson doesn't make bad records, only good ones and great ones. "Fortune Favoured Me " is a great one. Kerri Simpson is a great one. Ignoring the music of Kerri Simpson leaves you a fool to yourself and a burden to others. Say HALLELUJAH!
Tony Biggs - 3RRR 2012
Melbourne based singer Kerri Simpson is perhaps best known for her mastery of the blues. Although she's equally at home in the world of country, folk and even electronic/dance. Her latest album Fortune Favoured Me once again sees her in command of her trademark smoky hued voice. A record that shines with a selection of tracks veering from the intimate and inviting, to the bold and at times even angry
RadioNational Breakfast - Album of the Week: Kerri Simpson.
Oft referred to as Australia’s Queen of the Blues, Kerri Simpson in fact inhabits a multitude of musical worlds. Over a long career, she’s shone her unique light over jazz, pop, gospel and soul. The first CD in her Knockin’ At The Back Door series, Maybe By Midnight, was all about country. By contrast, number two in the series presents a tasty bubbling brew of influences and moods. And no matter where she treads along the musical path, the Melbourne-based songstress breathes playfulness, passion and class into every note.
Composed and co-produced by Charles Jenkins, the title track is nothing less than a masterpiece, with Jenkins’ piano underscoring Simpson’s wistful vocal (singer and song recall Sinead O’Connor’s take on Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares To You’). The husky depth of Simpson’s vocal range and innate sense of phrasing play up to Geoff Achison’s funky guitar on ‘One Time Around’, before a jolt out of the comfort zone.
Her duet/duel with a scorching Jeff Lang (‘Howl’) sees Simpson thrillingly unleash her inner voodoo child – not for the faint-hearted. A tinge of Tex-Mex guitar (Jaimi Faulkner) adorns the self- penned ‘If You Don’t Know By Now’. Simpson the interpreter nails the raw emotion of ‘She Set Fire To The House’ by former Sports-men Pendlebury (on guitar) and Cummings. Sweet vocal backing (Kylie Auldist and Nichaud Fitzgibbon) and Paul Williamson’s sax inject a soulful country groove into Cyndi Boste’s ‘Cry Down’.
Long-time backing band The Prodigal Sons again feature with drummer Mark Grunden, Dean Addison (bass), Ron Tabuteau (guitar) and Ben Grayson (keys). The guest list is fair bursting with even more local instrumental cred: Shannon Bourne, Andrew Ogburn, Chris Rogers and Matt Walker. Great care and craft can be heard on the production (KS and Colin Wynne) and Simpson is commanding in every role: soul- bearing balladeer, N’awlins gypsy temptress, rock queen extraordinaire. Already a classic.
Chris Lambie - Rhythms
Kerri Simpson is a diamond in the rough and an truly incredible singer - unique, always heartfelt and a Melbourne icon.
Inpress – 3.10.12
"an absolute must for your collection"
Helen Jennings - Roots of Rhythm 3PBS
Smokey, sultry, dark bars and old cars .... just some of the words that spring to mind .... a truly unique album from this outstanding singer.
Tony Jaggers – 2EARFM
Kerri Simpson's new single Fortune Favoured Me is the title track of her new album. It's a sublime, happy/sad, all warm around the ears piece of grown up pop melancholy.
Warning - Don't go out and buy the cd on the strength of the title track so you can play it at your next AOR dinner party.
Three songs in and you're gonna be assaulted with Howl, a banshee, primal scream number that will kill your dinner party. And from there on in there's all manner of stuff in between. Her music soothes, but it also unsettles. Sometimes she scares me. Sometimes she makes me wanna cry.
No one else sings like Kerri. I was speaking with a bogan at a music festival a few years back. He had just seen Kerri perform. He said to me, "Mate, that fuckin' Kerri Simpson can fuckin' sing".
He was right.
Jonny Von Goes – RRR