Cork and Tipperary, in Ireland, may not be the first locations to spring to mind when thinking of unrefined, unyielding blues, although the great Rory Gallagher was brought up in Cork. Crow Black Chicken on their debut album “Electric Soup” play blues that is not diluted with jazz, folk or any other genre skirting the edges. Crow Black Chicken plays the blues, and they play it remarkably well. From the opening few bars of ‘White Lightening’ the stall is set out to perfection. With production just on the lucid side of gritty, the listener can appreciate the road down which they are to travel. Memorable chorus, insanely haunting verses and soaring lead guitar lines are evident in profusion. It would be a challenge for the listener to not take up their air guitar by the end of ‘White Lightening’.
Slightly more downbeat, but no less soaked in the blues tradition, ‘Skin Deep’ is seductive and charming, and showcases the vocal style of Christy O’Hanlon to perfection. O’Hanlon’s voice is at once assertive yet soulful, drenched in emotion yet taking no prisoners. The tracks that follow, ‘Pourin’ Down’ and ‘Epitaph’ follow a similar path, as the bass and drums foundation of Steven McGrath and Gev Barrett respectively, continues to provide a concrete yet organic foundation.
‘Charlie’s Women’ would not sound out of place on an album produced forty years ago, and evokes an air of melancholy for times long gone. The playing on ‘John Lee Wee’ is fluid and loose and creates an atmosphere of relaxation and pleasure. Like ‘Charlie’s Women’ the title track ‘Electric Soup’ straddles the ages in terms of musical fashion, and features feral and uncultivated guitar lines that have been pushing back the boundaries of respectability for decades. Possibly the most vociferous track on the album and the track that would most likely symbolize the album as a whole is ‘Murmuration’, with its searing slide guitar and undomesticated vocals. As the track builds up the momentum, the musicianship becomes more frenzied and the vocals become more incomprehensible. ‘Lie Awake’ has a lilting vocal style that is reminiscent of John Martyn in its delivery.
The final track, ‘John the Revelator’, is a familiar piece to the blues aficionado, and here it is given a strident overhaul with driving percussion, zealous vocal and slide guitar that makes the listener proud to be engaged with the music. It would be virtually impossible to single out each of the tracks on “Electric Soup”, as each evokes imagery of decadence, salaciousness and gratification. There is nobleness and a dignity in creating music that adheres strictly to a tradition, and if “Electric Soup” is not always dignified it is true to itself and Crow Black Chicken.