reviewed by Michael Thomas
The latest from blues outfit Blue Moon Maruqee is an album in conversation with their previous recordings. On their previous album, Lonesome Ghosts, they began referring to their music as “Gypsy Blues.” Now they have a new album called just that. Gypsy Blues is even talking with Stainless Steel Heart — an album that was out when they were still called A.W Cardinal — in the form of redone versions of the album’s “Shading Tree” and “Driftin.'”
Hearing the new version of these new songs (the latter is now called “Driftin’ Blues”) alongside their first iterations is instructive in showing how A.W. Cardinal and Jasmine Collette’s music has changed. Cardinal now sings with a rough growl that adds a certain intensity to some of his songs, and his songs place a greater emphasis on bluesy electric guitar riffs. The original version of “Shading Tree” almost sounds like a folk song; on Gypsy Blues it gets particularly fearsome when Cardinal sings the line about a raging bull.
As per usual, Blue Moon Marquee makes plenty of use of the 12-bar blues—right off the bat, in fact, with “Trickster Coyote” and “Hoodoo Lady.” Both songs feature a fairly simple idea (attraction to an alluring but dangerous lady) but with the former featuring a morphing image and the latter a static one.
The band switches things up often enough that the album doesn’t become stale. “Pour Me One” is especially exciting; you can almost tell right away that the song will be shorter because Cardinal is singing and playing faster, as though he’s trying to sing the blues in a punk style. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Ain’t No Hill” is nice and leisurely, with some lazy guitar licks slowly ushering the listener into a song with Collette on vocals.
If you’re on the lookout for fiery lyrics, look to “Runaway Lane” for brushes with death or “Double Barrel Blues,” where Cardinal implores you: “Gonna pull that trigger/Better pull it twice” and “Put your buckshot right in my side.” The easy bluesiness is the best part of their music; it never quite ventures into full on blues-rock, retaining a bit of folk and roots to make music that is simultaneously roaring and restrained.
Top Tracks: “Pour Me One”; “Ain’t No Stranger”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)