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Music Review: Imelda May – Love Tattoo

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Imelda May has been carefully stacking up accolades and word-of-mouth advertising all over the U.K. Ever since appearing on Jools Holland’s show and wowing the audience, including Jeff Beck, she’s been in a bit of a whirlwind. With the release of her sophomore album, Love Tattoo, on U.S. shores, the “wow factor” is primed to explode.

A delicious and devilish mix of rockabilly, jazz, and good old-fashioned beach-blanket rock, Love Tattoo is an energetic record that makes great use out of May’s pipes and her ability to conduct energy. It’s a banger of a record, uneven in places as it should be, and it sparkles with the brilliance of an artist having a hell of a good time doing her thing.

The beauty in what dear Imelda pulls off lies in the effortlessness of the whole fusion deal. Many artists try to twist some sort of stew of jazz, punk, and rock together and come across looking like a dog that just peed on the carpet. There’s no confusion or regret here, though, as May’s approach is couched in her life experience.

She grew up listening to rockabilly and blues when everyone else in the ‘hood was listening to Wet Wet Wet and groups like A-Ha. As the youngest of five kids, Imelda May was often caught in a hailstorm of various musical styles but still managed to maintain her own groove while respecting the boundaries of her siblings and parents.

Love Tattoo is the result of all that lovely chaos, standing as a bouncy collection of influences piped through May’s natural charm and brilliant vocals.

Along with singing, May plays the bodhrán and gets a little assistance from her array of backing musicians. Featuring Dave Priseman on trumpet/flugelhorn/percussion, Darrel Higham on guitar, Al Gare on double bass, and Steve Rushton on guitars, her band is more than competent in supporting her big voice and bigger energy level.

Beginning with the bluesy “Johnny Got a Boom Boom,” May introduces us to the rips and tears in her vocals with glee. Punchy and raw, she belts it out without a second of restraint as the band peppers the backdrop with steady rhythm and vigorous guitar.

Other cuts show a different side of May, such as the sensual “Meet You At the Moon” invoking a candlelit piano lounge experience and “Smotherin’ Me” offering the singer a change to burst at the seams with a Joplinesque strut and a wee bit of sexy panting.

Love Tattoo, now out in North America, showcases this young and frighteningly talented Irish vocalist in style. It is an energetic and entertaining album, highlighting her blues and rockabilly influences while keeping things totally modern and entirely fresh. It’s a fun record, to be sure, and deserves to be rocked at high volumes.

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About Jordan Richardson

  • Michael

    Enjoyed the review, Jordan. From the opening number, I was completely surprised and blown away by this Irish singer. Also a surprise … she’s not that young. I interviewed her last week and didn’t want to be rude by directly asking her age. She did volunteer that she’s at least 10 years older than two singers who are considered her contemporaries, Amy Winehouse and Duffy. For what it’s worth, Wikipedia shows her being born in 1974. No matter her age, she’s incredibly talented, and I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from her soon. She was a lot of fun to interview, so look forward to that in the next few days.