Blue Moon Marquee – Scream, Holler & Howl
Self-Release – 2022
13 tracks; 54.35 minutes
Canadian act Blue Moon Marquee is guitarist AW Cardinal and bassist Jasmine Colette. The couple met in 2012 when recording material for AW’s first album and found a common interest in all sorts of music. Since then they have released four albums and often performed as an acoustic duo. However, in recent years they have augmented their sound by using a full band, as they do on their fifth release. Duke Robillard came to Canada to co-produce and has plenty of positive things to say about BMM’s music in the sleeve notes; Duke also contributes guitar to several tracks, alongside the main band of sax player Jerry Cook, keyboard player Darcy Phillips and drummer Matt Pease; Paul Pigat plays guitar on one cut and Bonnie Northgraves trumpet on one, while co-producer Erik Nielsen adds tambourine to one. The material is all original, apart from two Lonnie Johnson songs, and the music includes blues, swing and gypsy jazz.
The title track opens proceedings with Jasmine’s double bass leading the way before jazzy organ and plucked guitar introduce AW’s deep growl as he sings of “going down to the honky tonk, I’m gonna flip, I’m gonna flop”, the bouncy tune really taking off with a barnstorming tenor solo. AW stays on vocals for his tribute to his “Thunderbird”, Duke taking the lead guitar role alongside Darcy’s Hammond which is well to the fore throughout. Jasmine compares herself to a dog tied up, desperate to be set free on the frenetic “Hounddog On A Chain”, propelled by AW’s insistent riffs and the drums/tambourine combination. AW also seems to want to break free as he sings of “dancing on the table with a rose in my mouth” at the start of “Thick As Thieves” which again features some great soloing from Duke and Jerry while “Lowlands” has a definite gypsy jazz feel courtesy of the trumpet work and Jasmine’s late night vocals. She may be disappointed by her current surroundings, but is still keen to get out and enjoy things on the next track, “Come On Down”: “Hey, when you coming down? We’re gonna shake it around, howl like hounds when you come on down.” It’s a moody tune with guitar and Hammond playing a staccato riff and the bari sax adding a doom-laden feel somewhat at odds with the words.
Lonnie Johnson’s lyrics to “Long Black Train” may well be the source of “So Many Roads” with its reference to a “mean old engineer”. The song has been put to music by BMM, very much in pre-war style, the bari sax again adding to the bottom end and playing in impressive unison with AW’s guitar. “Country Man” has a jazzier feel with Duke exchanging classy guitar leads with AW, another cut with a pre-war country blues feel. “My Wild Rose” also has some excellent guitar exchanges, this time with veteran Canadian guitarist Paul Pigat replacing Duke on a jump blues that rockets along with Darcy on piano rather than Hammond, as he is also on “Medicine Man”, another tune with a jazz feel as AW doubles on acoustic and electric guitars. Jasmine sings about her native state in “Old Alberta”, a gentle tune with brushed drums, acoustic guitar and piano alongside Jasmine’s warm double bass before AW returns to the mike for another acoustic style tune entitled “Red Dust Rising”. The album closes with a respectful cover of a second Lonnie Johnson tune “Another Night To Cry”, sung by AW (although credited to Jasmine in the artwork). AW plays well on electric with Duke in support on acoustic and piano is also featured.
AW’s gravelly vocals may be something of an acquired taste for some listeners and he is the main vocalist here. However, those who enjoy the jazz-inflected end of the blues spectrum will find much to enjoy on this album, the sound of which is excellent throughout, kudos to Duke Robillard and Erik Nielsen for that.