Notching up a load of celebrity support including kudos from the likes of Imelda May and Jools Holland, Big Boy Bloater, alongside his band the LiMiTs (Matt Cowley – drums, Dan Edwards – keyboards & Stephen Oats – Bass), has been earning quite a reputation as a hard-rocking blues guitarist. Influenced by the eclectic bands of the seventies, Big Boy Bloater may not think of himself as a blues artist in any specific way, but in these days of obsessive genre tagging it’s as good a place to start as any. However you choose to denominate ‘Luxury Hobo’, what is unquestionable is the wealth of memorable tunes that make up the album and the passion and skill that Big Boy Bloater and his band bring to the mix. In an age of artifice, there’s a feeling that music fans, more than ever, are on the lookout for artists who bring raw talent and, above all, genuine passion to the mix and Big Boy Bloater epitomises both of these approaches.
The album does not so much start as explode into life with its opening cut ‘devils not angels’. With Big Boy Bloater channelling his inner Tom Waits and Dan Edwards’ keyboards defiantly high in the mix, there’s a strong rock ‘n’ roll element to the music which is as much Chuck Berry as it is Muddy Waters, and there’s no questioning the thrilling energy that informs the electric solo that tears across the mix in the song’s second half. An early album highlight, ‘It came out of the swamp’ is a filthy blues stomp that hails from Louisiana with its deep South slide and dirty groove coming across like the Doors being molested by the Allman Brothers in a crack den. The comically titled ‘I love you (but I can’t stand your friends)’ is direct, to the point and rooted in the rock ‘n’ roll bluster of ‘Exile on Mainstreet’ era Rolling Stones, the deliberately sloppy riff a throw-back to the days of the ubiquitous bar room blues of the pre-karaoke machine era. Raw and with plenty of attitude, it’s a great track, but better still is ‘the devil’s tail’, a track about the modern quest for fame, where people seeking out fame without ever considering the price that comes with it. With some slinky slide work and a near impossible sense of cool, ‘the devil’s tail’ is one of those tracks that you just know will turn into a blistering anthem on stage. A hint of paranoia creeps in on ‘I got the feeling someone’s watching me’, a song that references the ever-increasing cavalcade of CCTV cameras appearing on every street corner and highway across Britain. Recalling the dark-hearted desert-blues of Nick Cave’s ‘red right hand’, I got the feeling…’ has a psychedelic touch that perfectly suits its subject matter.
A smooth blues stomp, ‘Luxury hobo blues’ has a whimsical riff and a diamond sharp core that, once again, riffs on the Rolling Stones with its gospel-infused chorus and gritty vocals. That wry side continues on the scratchy blues of ‘robot girlfriend’ which punches above its weight with a hint of Dan Patlansky in the crunchy riff. We’re into r&b territory with a hint of soul for the absurdly catchy ‘all things considered’ before the album comes, all too quickly, to an end with ‘not cool man’, a slamming, old-school rock cut that cruises on a riff that is beamed straight in form the fifties. With a squealing slide lead, slicked back hair and a flick comb in its back pocket, the title may scream ‘not cool man’, but the music absolutely is and it proves the perfect ending to the album. Brevity here is key, for Big Boy Bloater’s sensibilities hark back to the days when an album represented a single slab of vinyl, and neither the tracks, nor the track-listing, outstay their welcome. Rather than over-sate the appetite, Big Boy Bloater cleverly leaves his audience desperate for more, his inventive, varied tracks having flown past in the merest blink of an eye.
It’s easy to see why Big Boy Bloater is most readily associated with the blues. For all his protestations, the songs are, on the whole, tethered to that most elastic of genres and whether it be the dark, desert blues of Nick Cave and the bad seeds, or the rock ‘n’ roll-infused blues of the Rolling Stones, that thread remains a constant. A varied album, ‘luxury hobo’ genre hops wonderfully, taking in a variety of feels and styles as it wends its way through your conciseness. The playing is exquisite and yet the emphasis is on feel and style rather than perfection, with some songs taking on a deliberately dilapidated sound that is far more in keeping with the overall musical picture than any amount of studio-based perfection could ever be. Whether you dig blues, rock ‘n roll or even soul, ‘Luxury Hobo’ will undoubtedly find its way to your heart and it’s easy to see just why Big Boy Bloater has garnered such a following.