Easybaby – Going Upstairs | Album Review

easybabycdEasybaby – Going Upstairs

Tin Can Records – 2015

11 tracks; 48 minutes


In the sleeve notes to their debut album Easybaby explain that they record the old-fashioned way, all in one room, no headphones, no overdubs, and if some extraneous sounds creep into the recording, so be it, as that is what was happening that day.  It’s a recipe for some gritty, old school blues, a mix of originals and covers that range from the classics to contemporary sources.  The band comes from the East coast and plays mainly in Connecticut and Massachusetts: Kelly Rago is on vocals, Trevor West, guitar, Dennis Cotton, drums, Rich Badowski, harp, and Max Samson, bass; Greg Allen replaces Max on two tracks.

Throughout the disc Kelly proves herself a very capable vocalist with clear expression and a good range.  The album opens with a solid take on Gary Clark Jr’s “Next Door Neighbour Blues”, Trevor’s slide work underpinning Rich’s harp.  A more familiar source of inspiration is BB King whose “Rock Me Baby” is arguably the most over-covered tune in the blues, Easybaby choosing to play it in a relentlessly upbeat style with Rich’s harp again to the fore; the slow blues of BB’s “Three O’Clock Blues” is a contrast later on the album.

Other covers include the driving title track which is drawn from John Lee Hooker’s boogie repertoire and Jesse Mae Hemphill’s “Hard Times” which opens with Trevor’s slide set against a radio weather forecast in the background before developing into a tough boogie with plenty of harp.  Eddie Boyd’s “I’m Coming Home” is noted as live on the cover but the final track, Sonny Terry’s “Hooray, Hooray This Woman Is Killing Me” appears to also be a live recording as we join the tune as Kelly is talking about her mike stand!  The former has a very similar tune to standard versions of “Rock Me Baby”, the latter rocks along well but has distorted vocals which detract.

There are four original tunes on the album.  “The Fool” opens and closes with Greg Allen’s moody bass and is a fine slow blues on which Kelly is well supported by harp and guitar.  “Goodbye Lover” is a fast-paced rocker in which Kelly is glad to see the back of her ex and says so in pretty explicit terms!  “Wait And See” drops the pace and again features Greg on what sounds like a double bass while “I Don’t Know” shares a title and some of the rhythmic changes of Willie Mabon’s song made famous by the Blues Brothers.

There is nothing particularly novel about Easybaby’s blues but you can imagine that they would be a fun band to see live and in Kelly Rago they have a fine vocalist.

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