There’s been a new child born from the womb of The Blues. It’s a wondrous two headed offspring called “this is The Shoes. And while this child may grow up to be wild, it will also grow up strong and sturdy and righteous because it has a strong foundation. It will carry on a fine tradition, speaking new words, but in a voice with which the fortunate among us are familiar. It will walk down lonely roads and through barren fields, on a path that will eventually – inevitably – lead to the crossroads. Do you hear that sound? It’s the barking of the Hellhound.
The best thing one can say about the EP “this is The Shoes” is what some might also consider the worst thing you can say about it. It is derivative. Wonderfully, wonderfully derivative. And for that, I am truly thankful. Sabrina Robson and Jereme Collette had to have devoutly studied the Blues, and appear to have taken a few pages from The Yardbirds catalogue. That is a good thing on so many levels. Robson has blues harmonica down to a science, the way the late Yardbirds singer Keith Relf did many, many years before. Her playing sends shivers up my spine as if I am hearing that Hellhound barking.
“Change it Up” leads off the EP and is a straight ahead Blues number. I really enjoy Sabrina Robson’s voice here, and the guitar and harmonica playing weave their magic spell. This song in particular has a Yardbirds vibe. It’s a blessedly unvarnished number that you might picture coming off a worn out, scratched 78 rpm record. If you don’t know what one of those was, you need schoolin’. By the way, if you can’t warm up to this first song, you’d better turn back, because this is pretty much the same style you’ll be hearing throughout the album. Fair warning.
The next song on the EP is called “The Chase,” and stays pretty much within the same vein. There’s some tasty guitar here and some nice harmonies at play. There’s a sense of foreboding throughout the song, but that doesn’t serve to make this tune uncomfortable to listen to, but instead drives the number along. You could well imagine this song coming from an early sixties – read pre-hippie – album, maybe something Roy Orbison might have whipped up.
Tune number three is called “Mess Around.” It doesn’t. Nope, it’s pretty much raw and unpolished, and to me sounds a little bit like Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” without horns meets a demo version of Janis Joplin’s “Move Over.” Either way, Robson is in great voice and the song thumps along nicely. This is a tune I’d love to see performed live, because the energy within it is certainly palpable. At this point in the album you are either hooked or searching for something more poppy/happy/sunny to listen to. I, for one, am hooked.
“Raining in Vancouver” benefits from great rain storm sounds in the background that I am hoping occurred naturally, and is not a canned sound effect. The bluesy slide guitar lends this song the perfect tone and the harmonica is devastatingly beautiful. There’s a little bit of Hendrix’ version of Red House if it were played on acoustic guitar, so full marks to Jereme Collette for laying it down. While it’s a fairly standard Blues riff, it works, man, it works! I also loved the continuation of the rain sound at the end ala “Riders on the Storm” from The Doors. This band has definitely done its homework.
“Money” is a great little number that is carried by reverberating guitar, gorgeous harmonica and a beautifully pained vocal delivery courtesy of Sabrina Robson. This is one of the strongest tracks on the EP and the instrumentation leaves just enough spaces for the impact to fully come through to the listener. There are absolutely no missteps in this song.
The final track, “The Lake Song,” finishes things off nicely. It’s a pretty tune with acoustic guitar helping set the idyllic scene. Robson again provides beautiful vocals and the harmonies flesh things out wonderfully. There’s a hint of early Led Zeppelin here, which makes perfect sense as Zep grew from the ashes of the Yardbirds. It kind of reminds me of “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Zeppelin, sans the Page and Bonham bombast. And that’s all kinds of good, in my humble opinion. “The Lake Song” is a great summer song, and makes me want to be around a campfire listening to Robson and Collette perform it.
I can’t say enough about how much I like this album. I tend to pick holes in a lot of music, just because it’s my job and not because I am some wicked, evil bastard as some might think. But I really can’t find much to pick apart here. Sure, “this is The Shoes” has not invented anything new here, but they’ve given us a reverent, loving treatment of the familiar, and there is nobility and even beauty in that. Good work, folks!
You can find this is The Shoes on bandcamp at http://thisistheshoes.bandcamp.com/
Top Tracks: “Money;” “Raining in Vancouver;” “The Lake Song”
Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*