On The Hill – 2016
13 tracks; 47 minutes
According to the sleeve notes The Alabama Lovesnakes are ‘bad news and play the blues’. Despite the name the band comes from Sweden but, frankly, you would never know. Lead guitarist and songwriter ‘Crocodile’ Claes Nilsson sings in a whisky-soaked voice that has no trace of accent and the whole album sounds like it could have been recorded in the USA or the UK as the band has influences that include Chicago, Texas and the British blues/Rn’B scene of the late 60’s/70’s. Joining Claes are his regular bandmates Fredrik Nilsson on bass and Henrik Gillgren on drums, the basic trio having recorded all this original material in one twelve hour session.
Later overdubs include Johan Gund’s piano (two tracks), Daniel Nolgard’s organ (four tracks), Bruno Yxenholt’s harp (two tracks), Johnny Lindstrom and Thomas Thornquist (‘The Principal Horns’, sax and trumpet on three tracks). There are also backing vocals in places from Ida Bang, Peter Hallstrom, Asa Gillgren and Louisa Birgersson.
The opening four tracks set out the band’s stall: “Prison Of Love” is a pacy rocker with plenty of ringing guitar; “Your Little Key” is an excellent slow blues with the horns adding their distinctive ‘push’ to the song; the fast-paced Texan rocker “Something You Got” delivers exactly what we want from such a tune with female backing vocals and harp adding to the fun; “Searching High And Low” takes us to Chicago on a lively number with plenty of solid guitar riffs. There are few weak points here as the band takes us on a dramatic slow blues in the extended “The Matters Of The Heart” on which Claes channels his inner Otis Rush and the energetic “I Need You To Take The Devil Away” which has the latin drive of a tune like Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step”.
The title track is a loose-limbed toe-tapper with some high energy guitar and the band shows that they can also tackle the deep south (USA!) with the terrific rocker “Got To Get Back To New Orleans”, Claes’s rhythm work reminding us of the accordion that is so typical of NO, the horns pushing the song along really well. Things get a little weird on “Daddy’s Beard” where the title character is apparently stuck in a mail box! The band gives us a full-blown boogie John Lee Hooker style on “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and “I Got To Take You Back Home” sound like Little Feat on vacation in the swamps of Louisiana. The album closes with the hard-rocking “Back In Town” and the instrumental “Kokobello Blues” that takes us back to early John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers/Clapton when the guitarist always had a feature instrumental number.
Overall this was a very enjoyable album. The Alabama Lovesnakes would certainly work well on the current UK blues scene and perhaps I will get the pleasure of seeing them live someday soon.