Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1091

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Imperial Crowns: The Calling (Dixiefrog Records)

Imperial Crowns CD cover pic



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UK release date 14.10.2016

If you like your blues heavy, raunchy, raw and rockin’, this is for you. Lots of attitude and rock and roll posturing, these cool US cats know how to tear it up. Think early Stones, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes, J Geils Band, Fabulous Thunderbirds and their like.

They are not reinventing the wheel and some of the lyrics are a tad naïve, but it is great fun and has some blistering guitar chops all over it. They also sound like a band and a unit and they look like a band and a unit. Their fifth album and they are about to tour Spain, Holland and France in November. They call their stuff "ferocious blues, psyche-delta soul & pumpin’ funk".

L.A. based Imperial Crowns are front man Jimmie Wood, on vocals/harp/guitar; J.J. Holiday on slide guitar/vocals & Billy "Champagne" Sullivan on drums. Their original songs mix up soul, blues, and psychedelic swamp rock & roll.

In 1984, a young J.J. Holiday backed up Bob Dylan on the David Letterman Show as his guitar player with some pals from the Plugz, a Latino punk band from Los Angeles. Ten years later, JJ and Jimmie Wood are on stage at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip, backing up Bruce Springsteen. Jimmie & JJ are both original members of the House of Blues house band, The Sacred Hearts and continue with it today, playing behind The Blues Brothers across the U.S.

Jimmie Wood played harp on "Spare Parts” for Springsteen’s album “Tunnel of Love.” He played with Etta James, Ofra Haza and more. A teenage Jimmie played with Lightnin’ Hopkins! On YouTube you’ll see J.J. and Jimmie jamming with Johnny Depp and Keith Richards at the Chelsea’s Hiro Ballroom in New York City, while promoting the movie The Rum Diary, in 2011. Billy Sullivan played drums behind the legendary blues piano of Johnny Johnson, the rock guitar of Mick Taylor and continues recording and sound designing the films of Hollywood composer David Newman.

It is their first album for nine years, and has some very decent moments on it. A slightly uneven listen, as some of the material is a better fit than other songs here. But there’s nice light and shade between the 'in yer face' stuff and the more laid back songs. It all has a tremendous sprit, and you can tell they just love what they do and will do it until they no longer can, no matter what we think. Not chasing hits or trend led. Good on ‘em for that.

Jimmie, JJ and Billy are joined by the likes of Benmont Tench on piano, André Berry and Bob Glaub on bass, Mike Rocha, Ryan Dragon and Peter Slocombe on hors, plus Rachel C Wood on backing vocals.

A dozen cuts, the title track is a highlight. The opener “I Gotta Right,” tells us these boys have a right to wear their rock and roll shoes and they will kick your arse like a natural man. Someone once said Saturday night was made for fighting; for these guys, it was obviously made for rockin'. Sunday for nursing a mother of a hangover!

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