And there’s a place in her heart for Wynona Carr, LaVern Baker, and Wanda Jackson as well. “For a girl, (listening to) those female vocalists, and some males, they seep into you ... especially as a teenager,” she said with unabashed zeal. “They get into your head, your ears, it’s like thunder. You can’t get enough. You soak it all up.”
Of course, she has a well-grounded respect for traditional Irish music, too, and is more than willing to turn the tables and give lessons to out-of-touch Americans who may be unaware of the late great Luke Kelly (of the Dubliners) or songwriting talents like Christy Moore, Paul Brady and Sharon Shannon.
“It’s like dealing with country music here (in America), isn’t it?” she said. “The rhythms are similar, they’re hypnotic, the continuous rhythms,” she said. “The same for blues as well. The traditional Irish is very similar, the way it keeps going round and round and you get into the feeling.”
In the end, though, it’s the fire, the rebelliousness and the “in-your-face” nature of rockabilly that May enjoys the most. And though she thinks the genre has remained popular since its Fifties glory days, May contends, “People are going back to it more; I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it’s around recession time when people tend to go back and try to find out where music came from.”
Now that she has passed her test with flying colors, get ready for May to educate the masses.
See a clip of Imelda May’s debut on Later ... With Jools Holland: