2010 – Independent
If you like your jazz cool, your gin-joints hot, and your cigars smoking then have I found an album for you. Pugsley Buzzard’s Wooden Kimono is a real treasure trove of a record with its throbbing hoodoo jazz beats and hazy alcoholic piano journeys. It really is, in my opinion, one of the best albums in this style since Tom Waits’ Blue Valentine.
We start off with the evil sounding Aces and Eights, all rolling piano with prowling blues guitar solo, and nothing gets much lighter from there. Just track after track of excellently performed retro-jazz which conjures up half-forgotten dreams of nineteen-thirties gangsters and New Orleans cigar bars.
Buzzard’s growling voice, which sounds a drunk Louis Armstrong playing Russian roulette, is the real driving force behind this record, but his immaculate piano playing and the assortment of highly skilled musicians he has working with him work incredibly well to hold all of these songs together. The horns work hard to provide an eerie atmosphere throughout Digging Man’s Blue, and the drummer just flutters his way through the whole thing like he doesn’t care when the beats are going to come. Everything just gels together and creates a sparseness that can only be described as ‘murderers’ blues’.
There is also a certain sort of earnestness that comes through in the music, especially in tracks like Black Dog and Wooden Kimono Blues. It struck me as odd the first time that I listened to the album that this time-warp into a mythicised bygone era could come across as sincere, but somehow listening to Pugsley rasping out “can’t get much lower now/ doing that cockroach crawl” sounds believable. It’s almost as if the man stepped right out of a noir fiction novel.
If you’re being put off by this description of a howling blues bogeyman, have no fear – there’s something here for you too! Stuck Between A Rock and A Hard Place Polka is a great little folk/jazz number that ‘s bound to get you up on your feet and jiving away like crazy, not to mention the good-times swing of Big Al’s Gal and the jungle beats of Sunnyside Up. Now, the lyrical content of these songs aren’t really all sunshine and roses, but the music is just so wrought with whiskey-soaked abandon that one can forget the unrelenting darkness for a while and just kick up their heels. Really this album’s got it all.
Now, maybe I’m just a sucker for some well crafted jazz and blues, or maybe it’s just the gravelled voice that gets me every time, but either way I’m a huge fan of this album and I don’t think that I can recommend it highly enough. Really you should all just get onto his website right now and purchase yourselves a copy. You won’t be sorry.
I have been lucky enough to have seen Pugsley Buzzard live on a few occasions and I can tell you that it’s well worth doing if you have the chance. It appears from my research that he’s touring at practically all times, so you probably have a good chance of catching him in or about your town.
Here is a video of Pugsley Buzzard performing ‘Black Dog’ from the album ‘Wooden Kimono’
- Swingtastic 31st July – August 4th from 7.30pm featuring Pugsley Buzzard (thedarwinrailwayclub.wordpress.com)