13 songs – 41 minutes
Well, this was a delightful surprise. I had not heard of the Anglo-German Little Roger & The Houserockers before, although Good Rockin’ House Party is their fifth CD. The magnificently retro cover certainly raised hopes: An old photograph from the 1950s of a mythologized America, vintage-style typeface, period-correct colour schemes – somebody obviously has a good eye for detail. And that impression is reinforced by the opening track, “To The Bone”, a glorious 50s-style Chicago shuffle. T-Man Michalke’s guitar tone is distorted in the best kind of way, Marion Wade’s piano dances merrily over the swinging rhythm laid down by Roffi Roffmann on bass and Chris Seidel on drums. And singer Roger C. Wade has a wry vocal style in addition to contributing a fine harp solo. Before you can catch your breath, the second track, a raucous cover of Little Milton’s “It’s Later Than You Think”, almost explodes out of the speakers. This is retro house party music at its best.
The CD proudly notes that the album was recorded the old-fashioned way – all in one (not so) big room, through tube amps, via old mics, straight onto analogue tape, and the result is a resounding success. There is what sounds like vocal bleed through the harp mic on the low-down boogie of Willie Nix’s 1953 classic “Just Can’t Stay”, but it just adds to overall atmosphere of the song.
The Houserockers take delight in unearthing some rare gems, such as “Glad I Don’t Have To Worry No More”, originally written by Robert Lockwood Jr and recorded by The Fat Man with the Sunnyland Slim Trio in 1951. Both Lil’ Son Jackson’s “Get High Everybody” and Tampa Red’s “Midnight Boogie” are played pretty close to the originals (albeit with harp replacing the horn section on the former and with some seriously funky additional guitar from Michalke on the latter). Other covers however are cleverly turned on their heads. Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Little Girl” is re-imagined as a guitar-led slow blues, while Jimmy Reed’s “I Don’t Go For That” benefits from some tubo-charged harp from Little Roger and modern propulsion from Roffmann and Seidel rhythm section.
The band’s original songs bear comparison with the covers. The slow blues of “Alternative Facts” is a case in point, where Wade wryly skewers certain ill-thought out defences of recent political pronouncements by singing “It seems like I’ve been wrong and a dog is just a cat. I’ve finally realised that’s just an alternative fact.”
The album contains two instrumentals on which the musicians are able to stretch out a little. Michalke’s “Crabs” is an upbeat Gatemouth Brown-style rocker, while “Rocket Fizz (For Fred)” is a piano-driven rave-up written by Marion Wade that one suspects is a homage to the great Fred Kaplan. Indeed, the great (and still criminally under-rated) Hollywood Fats Band seems to be a major influence on Little Roger & The Houserockers.
Good Rockin’ House Party is a very enjoyable, very well played combination of 50s-style Chicago blues and West Coast swing. Recommended listening.