RoXi and the Blue Cats album review by Mike DeGagne
The band is a five piece outfit that play a well-chosen variety of old and new blues, jazz, and rock. The lead singer, known as Roxi, has a gifted voice that’s powerful and rich, and whose style at times reminds one of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks or even Janis Joplin at times. The musicianship from the rest of the band is tight, especially the guitar playing of Martin Ellins and the wonderful bass picking of Philip Plant, who holds together a number of tracks on their self-titled debut album.
The album opens with "Blue Cats Strut", a wonderful back-alley blues number that puts the drums and bass at the forefront, and then introduces the vocals with a wham. The song creeps, crawls, and prowls with a contagious, classic blues bass riff that just won’t quit; an excellent opener for a debut recording. "Lotus Elite blues" is a flashback to the days when British Blues had its heyday, which was the mid to late 1960’s and early 1970‘s. Right away, there are tones of the old Fleetwood Mac, lead by Peter Green, or of Eric Clapton’s Cream, thanks to the song’s pace and snappy drum work. The vocals are sharp and frantic, but keep up marvelously with the instruments while still managing to keep a cool, blues mood.
"Built For Comfort" is a Willie Dixon number that exudes the relaxed, laid back style of the blues. The band does another good job on this track, which is attractively simple when it comes to the guitar and drum work…just your basic blues riffs, yet done cleanly and efficiently. Singer Roxi sounds emerged in the music that’s behind her, which gives the tune another dimension and more of a back porch feel.
At nearly nine minutes, "Ball and Chain" is slow moving blues tune that sounds somber, sorrowful and beautifully emotive. Melancholy, gloomy, and somewhat downhearted, this song, with its slow bass plucks and classic downtrodden tempo, reflects the deepest part of the blues. Even more superb though, is a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s "The Chain." Roxi and the Blues Cats’ version is more haunting than the original, to be sure, and there seems to be a little more depth to this rendering. It’s difficult to cover such a classic, and while the magical voice of Stevie Nicks can never be duplicated, the band gets full marks for this effort.
The band falls off a bit with "Rock Me Right", as they meander slightly into rock and roll. The song is your standard blues/rock fare and comes across a bit hollow, almost too simple for their talent level. After hearing what the band can do in the first five tracks, "Rock Me Right" is instantly overshadowed by what one has heard already. "When Baby Gets The Blues" is another late-night, enchanting number with a slow pace. Again, the guitars and hypnotizing vocals creep along as if they’re tiptoeing around a darkened house; wonderful mood and atmosphere created on this track, and yet another sharp reflection of the British Blues scene.
Ending the album is the colorful "Woke Up This Morning", the B.B. King classic which is covered quite tastefully, and "Blue Cats Boogie", a fun little piece that jaunts along with a dance floor blues sound and an upbeat lilt running through its veins.
To say the least, Roxi and the Blues Cats is a truly great blues album. Lovers of the blues, especially the British Blues, will appreciate everything they hear on these tracks. The covers are well done, with style, and the band exudes a sincere blues sound on the originals. Most of all, the blues sound doesn’t have to be looked for on each track: it’s there instantly. The band has a unique chemistry of getting across their sound without doling out much effort. Blues lovers will notice this right away, and will get hooked after the first listen.
Review by Mike DeGagne (All Music Guide/ReviewYou)
Rating 4.5 stars (out of 5)
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