I was a fan of Imelda May‘s last album, 2010’s Mayhem. I’m using fan in a pretty casual sense there because I liked it and listened to it a number of times, but it wasn’t on any of my top lists or anything. Mayhem was a fun record to hang out with for a while, kinda like other peoples kids. Her new record, Tribal, has a bit more staying power.
The Irish singer is one of the few people making rockabilly music that hasn’t been saturated by this weird combination of honkytonk and ska(surely we can’t put all the blame on Brian Setzer) that’s permeated the genre. Along with guitarist/husband Darrel Higham and the rest of a fantastic band, May stays true to the principles that have made rockabilly great for the past 60 years.
The star of the show, as always, is her voice. She can go from big and brassy to soft and sultry in the snap of a finger, combining arena-rocker vocal theatrics with the chill vibe of a lounge singer. The brash, punk-leaning screams on “Hellfire Club” contrasting nicely with the whispered purrs of “Wicked Ways.”
Some of the lyrical content is a bit trite for my liking. May is at her best when she’s having fun, and parts of Tribal are a bit too focused on domestication and settling down. It’s still a fun record, but tracks like “Round The Bend” and “Little Pixie” (a take on “Sea Of Love”) could have been left off and the album would pack a more efficient punch.
That said, Tribal is a thoroughly enjoyable listen and rewards multiple spins. Released in April in the UK, it will finally be available here in the States on July 29th.