Selina And The Howling Dogs – Blues Revisited
Self-Release – 2022
13 tracks; 50 minutes
This band is based in Reading, UK, a quartet with Selina Arch on vocals, Alan Burgin on guitar/vocals, Mark Peace on bass/rap/vocals and Tobias Anderson on drums/vocals: additional backing vocals on one track come from Barbara Fadden who co-wrote two songs with the band; Amy Fitz-Desorgher adds sax to one cut. The band has been around since 2002 and has written songs before, but never released anything until the Covid Lockdown encouraged them to get started. The result is this album with thirteen original songs written by the band with Philip Ridley adapting some of the lyrics on “I Still Want More” from his play Radiant Vermin. In their PR sheet the band claims to fuse blues, rock, funk and rap and all those elements are certainly present, though the amount of actual blues is quite limited. Influences for the album are listed as ‘Gary Clark Jr, Vintage Trouble, Kyla Brox, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Healey, Rolling Stones, Robben Ford, Led Zeppelin and Muddy Waters’ – quite a long list to live up to!
The album opens with “Slow Train Blues” which chugs along over a solid guitar riff, the band harmonizing well on the chorus and Alan delivering some meaty blues-rock in his solo. A fast-paced “Never Get Over You” finds Selina regretting a lost love before the strange “Stow” which starts in light, almost jazzy style before Selina comes in and Mark does his first rap vocal of the album, delivered in a distinctly English accent; despite several listens this reviewer failed to understand what the song is about! We return to more conventional influences on “The Way Things Are”, a catchy rocker with some good slide work while “Get Up” has something of a jazz-funk feel as Selina encourages someone to “Get up, stand tall and secure your place in our hearts”. “It Hurts” slows the pace and gives us the chance to appreciate Selina’s clear vocals as she describes the pain of a break-up, as well as hearing guitarist Alan play some nicely poised, subtle lines.
“On The Line” is another mid-paced rocker with ringing chords giving the song an Americana sound on to which is then grafted a short rap section, an unusual combination, to say the least. A strong bass line opens the funky “I Keep On” where lyrically Selina is hoping for the best in a new relationship. Perhaps it is unwise, therefore, to contemplate “Fooling Around”, a lively, almost pop song with some nice guitar moments in the middle section. “Hip Hop Baby” finds Selina using elements of rap techniques in her vocal and Mark giving us an actual rap in the central section before a rock solo from Alan. The sax adds a little extra depth to the sound on “Get Yourself Back”, a fairly conventional piece of blues-rock, as is “Please Me Now”, the core riff of which is where the band may be able to legitimize its reference to Muddy Waters in the PR. The anthemic “I Still Want More” carries on the rock sound with echoes of Blondie and makes a lively end to the album.
Difficult to categorize this album which does indeed display all those influences that the band claimed. The use of rap left this reviewer cold but it probably signals a credible attempt to appeal to a younger audience. The jury is still out on whether there is enough actual blues content to satisfy the appetites of Blues Blast readers.