The Brexit vote, the death of Elvis, John Major/Edwina Currie — some events are so unexpected that they change your world view. Right up there with them is this is new album from Shakin’ Stevens. It’s very, very good.
In a proper, serious rock, sounds-a-bit-like-the-Beatles way. It’s a collection of strong songs with a blues/ swampy/country edge, though there’s some rock ‘n’ roll influences, too. You could compare it to other bands but it’s most like a Beatles/Macca album, effortlessly ranging across genres while keeping a good melody. And interesting lyrics. No, it’s not a joke. Yes, it is Shakin’ Stevens. The one who sang This ‘Ole House. That one. We’ll stop the review for a second while you get your head together.
It does make sense. Michael Barratt began recording and performing in the late 1960s, playing in various bands and changing his name on the way, before hitting his commercial stride in the 80s. He’s probably been playing like this live for decades. Moreover, in the late 60s Barratt was also associated with the Young Communist League: the youngest of 11 children, his father was a First World War veteran and former miner.
This album sees Barratt/Stevens reflecting on his family’s lives, whether it’s being exploited down the pits or dying in the trenches in WW1, a dispute that led to working men who didn’t even have a vote being slaughtered in their millions.
It’s top quality all the way through. Play opener Down In The Hole — that should be enough to seal the deal. The album features dobro, harmonica, lots of banjo, and some tasty blues guitar and, despite crossing genres, Stevens has the knack of writing a catchy hook, and the melody is strong throughout. His voice is still good at 68.
We praised the album on social media and no-one believed us, so played a couple of tracks to a musically astute friend, making him promise to go on Facebook and say how good it was. His review: “I haven’t been drinking, I haven’t just shot up and I haven’t started taking glue. So it may come as something of a surprise when I say Shakin’ Stevens new album is really rather good.” It’s more than rather good.
It’s out today (16th September). It deserves universal praise. It certainly deserves your money. Go and buy it: if you like melodic rock/blues it may be your album of the year.