Alligator Love Cry (4.5*)

Sunday 23 December 2012

Alligator Love Cry.jpg

Cut, like its predecessor, in Louisiana at Dockside Studios the second album from Scrapomatic has the duo of Mike Mattison (vocals) and Paul Olsen (guitar) working with a basic rhythm section of George Rush (vocals, tuba, acoustic bass, electric bass) and Jeffrey Ryan Lipstein (drums, percussion) and a bit of help from fiddle player/vocalist Kristina Beaty to deliver thirteen tracks of prime blues based Americana.

From the opening of Louisiana Anna with the tuba wheezing away behind Mattison’s gruff vocal lines to the gospel testimony of I Belong to the Band you’re looking at a collection of thirteen excursions into the gritty backstreets of the urban landscape and through the backwoods and bayous.

Take, for example, Horsemeat, where Olsen throws in some greasy electric blues lines behind Mattison’s tales of hookers, sleazy motels and back seat assignations, and contrast it with the rustic countryish elements in Long Way Home. Different stories, but part of the same big picture.

The contrasts keep coming. So Much Love, three and a quarter of fairly straightforward declaration of affection, is followed by Lotus, an intriguing blend of vaudeville, Crescent City jazz and mouth trumpet that’s right back in quirky lyrics territory.

Variety, in short, is the name of the game. There’s fairly straightforward chugging blues (Graveside Blues), a dash of funky R&B with growling guitar (Monkey Card), jumping electric blues straight out of the Chicago playbook on Ain't Got the Smile and a heartfelt Kristina Beaty ballad about addiction (The Other Side) where Beaty’s soulful wail matches up neatly with Mattison's throaty roar. God Damn Job covers an old track by The Replacements while the tempo drops back for Tired Weak Legs, with Mattison heading into gospel territory and tasty harmonies from Kristina Beaty and stays there for Raw Head and Bloody Bones before I Belong to the Band winds things up with  Mattison firmly in the gospel camp.

There’s not much here that’s new, just an imaginative fusion of gospel and blues elements with a good dash of New Orleans, delivered with panache, living music that’s aware of where it’s coming from (equal parts urban sleaze and bayou simplicity) with Mattison’s vocals playing off Olsen’s guitar parts and vocal contributions and added instrumentation that works a treat.

Not, perhaps, an album that was ever in danger of setting the world on fire, but those seeking an unobtrusive album of soulful music that’ll reward repeated listening and repay any attention the listener devotes to the contents could do a lot worse.

© Ian Hughes 2012