Having been a fan of rockabilly now for many years, I’ve come to just accept the fact that not very many truly groundbreaking albums come out anymore in the genre. I guess it’s what happens when the genre has been around for 70+ years and I’m not old enough to have actually been alive when all the good stuff was going on. However, I was excited to take a listen to the new Imelda May album as I’m not overly familiar with her, but have heard some good things about what she does. While her new album doesn’t break any new ground or revolutionize the rockabilly sound, it does do what it does well – with style, grace, and a certain cabaret sashay that suits her amazing voice very well. I’m torn between being upset I haven’t listened to more of her and wishing that she’d push the envelope a little more and step out of what can easily become expected in this genre, as she obviously has the talent and the musicians to pull it off. What she has done is a make an exceptional album, full of great vintage songs with twinkling vocals that are both angry and enticing – sometimes at the same time.
There are a good number of standout tracks on this album that I’ve found myself listening to over and over again, that run the range from barnstorming, aggressive rockabilly to soulful, waltzing ballads. This is very indicative of what you’ll find on this 15 track album, as the songs run the full gambit of the genre while using imaginative instrumentation throughout. “Kentish Town Waltz” is one of the tracks that is at once very intimate and touching, as it tells an autobiographical story about May first moving to London and the struggles of trying to balance a relationship and finding success as a singer & musician. You can feel how personal the song is to May and characterizes how honest and forthcoming a performer May is, willing to lay down intimate details and struggles through her music.
“Too Sad To Cry” will not leave me alone and haunts me. It highlights the strength of May’s talent and her uncanny ability to use her voice very effectively, while also taking a small deviation from the standard rockabilly fare. Another heartfelt ballad that starts off sounding like a soulful, death dirge from down New Orleans-way…it just pulls you in, makes you feel her heartbreak, her despair, and it reminds you of when you’ve felt the same, when you’ve wanted to give up, quit, and allow the sorrow to engulf you and take you – and it just leaves you there, without any candy-coated ending or saccharin-sweet optimism hollowly telling you that I’ll all be ok.
This is a solid offering from a beautiful, expressive Irish singer at the top of her game. If you have any kind of affinity for this genre of music, then this album is a must-have, and if you’re not, then this album will still have something for you and very well may reel you in and make you a fan.