Ah, Imelda May, the immensely talented, charismatic Irish queen of rockabilly. I could save myself some time right now by saying that if you have enjoy her previous music, you will absolutely love “Tribal”. However, as not everybody will have heard her older material and the fact that this album deserves a proper write-up, I won’t be that succinct. Back after a four year break between studio albums and after having her and her husband/guitarist Darrel’s first child, Violet, it’s like there hasn’t even been breath drawn between this and previous breakthrough album, “Mayhem”, as right from the moment you press play, it is an energy packed, impeccably-performed attack on the senses. Throughout the album, the husband and wife team battle for who can wow the listener the most with Darrel’s scintillating, red-hot guitar work getting the adrenaline pumping and Imelda’s peerless vocal talents given a chance to shine on a number of different flavoured songs. Of course, although it is Imelda’s name on the cover, it is the combination of the two, together with their tight, talented, energetic band that makes it such a magnificently enjoyable album. The catchy “Tribal”, with it’s instantly singable chorus, is a flawless introduction to the record, the anthem in the making, “Wild Woman”, keeps the tempo high and boasts a ridiculously accomplished Darrel Higham guitar solo and “It’s Good To Be Alive” is an immensely likeable, feel-good piece. The soulful “Gypsy In Me” gives Imelda the chance to demonstrate just how good she is at those sultry, slow-burning, bluesy ballads, whereas the adorable “Little Pixie” is all about those dreamy, romantic, laid-back rock ‘n’ roll moments from the fifties and surely must have been written about her new daughter.
We’re back to raucous, ballsy rockabilly with “Hellfire Club” but “Five Good Men” takes it up a notch further, boasting frenetic soloing from songwriter Higham on what proves to be one of the highlights on a very good album indeed. The mid-tempo, rhythm-heavy “Ghost Of Love” is a decent enough track, torch song “Wicked Way” is all growling guitars and sleazy muted trumpets and “Round The Bend” is a straightforward rock song about an annoying partner with an almost annoyingly catchy chorus. “I Wanna Dance” is one of the more predictable, lesser tracks on the album, but the blazing “Right Amount Of Wrong” finishes “Tribal” with gutsy style. There’s no two ways about it, either this is your thing or it just isn’t. If you enjoy fifties music, are a fan of Brian Setzer, his Stray Cats or other similar energetic rockabilly artists well, you’re probably already a fan of Imelda May and there’s not more I can tell you that you don’t already know, apart from the fact that, if you haven’t heard it yet, her new album is just as good as her last couple. However, for anyone who has yet to discover Imelda, Darrel and the band, “Tribal” is as good a place to start as any because, if you enjoy this, you’ll end up buying everything else anyway and, believe it or not, they are even better live than they are in the studio, especially the power and range of May’s voice which is absolutely astonishing. If you are a fan and have yet to catch a live show, that’s your next step. You really won’t regret it.
“Tribal” by Imelda May is out now on Decca Records. Imelda and band embark on an extensive UK tour in November & December 2014.
Andy Sweeney, 27th June, 2014.