When Katie Bradley and Dudley Ross started planning for 2014 they intended to record an album, which is something they achieved. However, the album they intended to make as a follow up She’s Ready, isn’t what they achieved. Instead of a polished set of originals we have something more akin to the band you see on stage, a mixture of classic covers and punchy originals that will be instantly recognisable to a member of a gig audience.
With the main market for hard copy music these days, especially among fans of more niche genres like blues, being the post gig sales to audience members eager for a souvenir of a night out, that recognisability is a grand idea. If you spin the disc and get a reminder of a great night you’re more likely to become an advocate of the band and to attend future performances. So have Kate and Dud executed a marketing coup like no other, or should they have stuck to the original plan?
The music here is very much focussed around excitement. None of the covers are slow 12 bar blues grinders, so popular with most acts as a chance to get all melodramatic, this is upbeat dancing music. From the swing of Every Day I Have the Blues to the punch of Mojo Working things have a focus on the danceability, the fire and the groove. Even when they do pick a slow one, I’d Rather Go Blind, they don’t push things towards an orgy of overblown soloing. Dudley’s lead on that particular song is refreshingly subtle, polished and almost surprisingly succinct. Not many blues bands have the confidence to hold back, or to push the song to the fore as these folks do, and it makes them all the more distinct.
As far as the originals that make up half the record go, they sit very well against their better known album-mates. Songs like Levy Town display a subtlety in their writing, and in their performance that shows exactly what the originals disc could have been. Their writing is original and intelligent, but still sits perfectly next to the well known covers. It’s a difficult thing to do, but choices of imagery that are steeped into the traditions of blues along with the eschewing of overtly current subject matter in favour of the universal proves an effective ploy.
Performance wise Dudley, as already mentioned delivers a polished, subtle guitar foil for Katie’s sweet toned voice and melodic harp playing. However they aren’t the only stars of the disc, great hammond playing (especially on a stand out cover of Lowell Fulson’s Little By Little) and a solid grove from the rhythm section show the band to be just as valuable as the stars.
So did the pair make the right decision? On this evidence yes. The album they have produced highlights their talents as performers and writers, yet it provides, with a deft choice of covers, a strong dose of familiarity that centres the disc. While many would say that this is a formula that has been followed by plenty of acts that have come before, it’s repeated so often because it works so well. It’s not so often it works this well.