Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch – Champagne Velvet
14 songs – 49 minutes
Dallas-based Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch’s third album has been keenly awaited since the success of their previous effort, Tell You What, which was nominated in Blues Blast magazine as Best Blues Rock Album back in 2013. As it turns out, Champagne Velvet actually represents something of a departure for the band from its earlier albums, exploring more blues and soul and less straight-out rock, albeit always with the eclectic tastes of a man who is as happy playing solo slide guitar on an old resonator (as on the country blues of “Green To Gone”) as he is wailing away on harmony guitars on the Grateful Dead-style rock instrumental of “Lament For Evelyn McHale”. As Elmore himself notes in an interview published on the band’s website, “I do enjoy being a free spirit and smoking grass and listening to Black Sabbath.” That is certainly the impression gained from listening to Champagne Velvet.
Elmore wrote all 14 songs on an album in which he displays a rare breadth of interest and sense of adventure, reminiscent at times of a blues-based Ginger Wildheart. The shuffle of “Maybe” somehow successfully treads a delicate line between Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. The more traditional Texas shuffle of “Double My Money” has typically sparkling lyrics: “Every time I get my hands on a dollar, I end up madder than hell. I lose my mind and give every dime to some fair-weather Jezebel. My grandmother told me some mighty fine advice. She said if you deal with the devil too long, expect to pay one hell of a price. She said a sure-fire way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.” The instrumental title track blends jazz and swing, while the beautiful soul ballad of “Right As Rain” is a joyous declaration of love. There is the random spoken word extract of “The Promise”, the jump blues of “Cross-Eyed Woman”, the AOR of “Shine Your Light” and the country-pop-rock of “Midnight In Memphis”, all book-ended by two flat-out boogies in “House Rockin’ Boogie #7” and “Mary Jane.” Entertainingly, towards the end of “Midnight In Memphis”, Elmore even throws in a hint of the Rolling Stones’ “Just My Imagination”.
The rhythm section of drummer Mike Talbot and bassist Brandon Katona lays down a variety of mighty grooves for the songs while Elmore himself provides all the vocals and guitars. A superb single note electric soloist, Elmore is also a sensitive, subtle acoustic finger-picker, evoking memories at times of the late, great Rory Gallagher, both in his playing and his songwriting. He is also an emotionally-charged singer.
Recorded at Audio Dallas in Garland, Texas, with engineer Paul Osborn, there is an enticing rawness to the sound of Champagne Velvet, which complements the warmth of the performances.
The three-year wait since Tell You What has been worthwhile. Champagne Velvet is a very impressive slab of modern blues and further evidence that Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch are on the cusp of great things.