The Claudettes – No Hotel | Album Review

theclaudettescdThe Claudettes – No Hotel

Yellow Dog Records

CD: 16 Songs; 44:31 Minutes       

Styles: Traditional and Contemporary Piano Blues, Instrumental Piano Blues

For a touring blues band, one of the most disheartening provisos in any contract is: No Hotel. “Well, here we are again, back at the Town Pub in your town,” read the liner notes of The Claudettes’ sizzling sophomore selection. “See the contract over there, under the CD tray? That’s what we’re lookin’ at here. Do you by any chance have any couch space? We have sleeping bags. We even have our own towels, and our own trail mix. We’ll be gone by the time you wake up tomorrow.” Such a hypothetical note, from such a non-hypothetically talented band, is sad indeed. Hailing from Chicago, they play blues from a bygone era, before 88 keys were supplanted by six-and-twelve-strings.  “This isn’t blues,” some might say. “This is jazz, ragtime, and French Ye-Ye music.” They’re not wrong. No Hotel contains all of the above, but this genre has always been a vivid spectrum of musical color. Not only is there guitar blue, but harp blue, violin blue, horn blue and piano blue. Sixteen songs – ten originals and six covers – show fans just how vivid this last kind can be.

The Claudettes don’t just perform ragtime blues, but channel it, as if letting the spirits of their artistic ancestors flow through them. In the middle of these sultry séances, however, two minor flaws surface: 1) If listeners don’t know French, they won’t understand at least half of the songs with lyrics, and 2) when vocalist and dancer Yana does perform, her melodic voice is overpowered by the instrumentation. True, this isn’t the fault of the artists themselves, but a technical lack of balance in the final album.With that said, each track will get a joint jumping.

The band consists of Johnny Iguana (keyboard player for Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and various rock cult heroes) on piano, Michael Caskey on drums and percussion, and their newest member Yana on vocals and dancing.

The following three songs combine the flair of the ‘40s with the precision of the 2010s:

Track 03: “You’d Have to be Out of Your Mind (To Play These Blues)” – The mark of any great piano player is how complex, yet simple, his or her melodies sound. The intro of track three is certifiably insane, requiring fast fingers and a relaxed presence of mind at the same time. Bars? Nightclubs? Pay attention, because live crowds certainly will.

Track 11: “Chez Le Ye-Ye” – With a voice as sweet and buttery as a beignet from the Big Easy, Yana sprinkles powdered sugar on this French pastry for the ears. It’ll get dancers off their duffs, no matter if they speak the lingo or not. Michael Caskey keeps the drumbeat crisp while Johnny Iguana sets the pace for anyone whose feet scream, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Track 15: “Summer Finally Came” – This is great instrumental driving music, even in the dead of winter. Blues fans, imagine the wind in your hair and the open road beneath your wheels as you coast down miles of highway, with an ocean-salt breeze tickling your nostrils. Ahhh…

No Hotel, eh? The Claudettes deserve a room at the Ritz-Carlton for their efforts!

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