Touring America for the first time, Irish rockabilly/blues singer Imelda May sounds like a giddy schoolgirl. Except she prefers to go back to old school.
There’s a lot of U.S. history behind the music May loves, which she is eager to study. That’s why, during a brief visit in September with her band to promote her latest album, Love Tattoo, May planned some sightseeing excursions to places like Chess Recording Office and Studio in Chicago, then former punk nightclub CBGB in New York before opening up for Chuck Berry at B.B. King’s Blues Club & Grill. She previously visited New Orleans, where she played in the House of Blues with Dr. John and recorded vocals for Dark Streets, a gangster movie set in 1930s New York starring Bijou Phillips.
Now she hopes to teach Americans a thing or two about herself. May is a genuine throwback, a sexy seductress who’ll knock you out just as quickly with her dynamite voice as her sultry looks. Wearing a tight leopard-print dress and with her trademark quiff, a streak of blond running through brunette hair tied back in a long ponytail, May seems made for the Fifties. More Bettie Page than Betty Boop, she wasn’t born yesterday. But make no mistake. This is one fresh face.
Americans often hit the pause button while the rest of the universe fast-forwards to check out the latest talent. It’s time to press play for Imelda May. Voted “Best Irish Female” singer (Lisa Hannigan and Gemma Hayes were among the nominees) at the 2009 Meteor Ireland Music Awards (on St. Patrick’s Day, no less) and declared “The Next Big Thing” by The Daily Mail, May also has some heavyweight support behind her. Among those included are Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarists Jeff Beck and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and influential British TV icon/former Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland. Watch out world. May Day has arrived.
“I don’t tend to set out on huge world domination goals or have anything in mind. I just like to play; I like to gig a lot; I like to write music,” May said humbly over the phone after landing in Los Angeles last week.
But she wasn’t discovered overnight. May has paid her blues dues, working in the business for “about 19 years,” singing with accomplished musicians who performed with such Irish acts as Van Morrison and Hothouse Flowers.