In the first half of 2017, Strange Majik released the ‘Soul Crisis‘ EP. It’s four songs melded the typical Strange Majik funk, rock and soul sounds with a less typical anger. Donald Trump had just become one of the most powerful men in the world with a mandate that would drag the US backwards at a frightening rate. No wonder Strange Majik’s head honcho David Pattillo was in a foul mood. Several months down the line, very little has changed with the state of the world. Trump has increasingly made America a laughing stock, but people aren’t taking it lying down…or letting it stifle their voices or creativity.
It’s May 2017. We’re approaching the halfway point of the year and supposedly knee-deep in a UK springtime. Not that you’d especially spot that by taking any more than a cursory look. For the better part of the past five months, the sky has decided to settle upon the lightly cloudy, with only occasional flashes of blue daring to break up what is otherwise a heavy, milky blanket. It’s also bloody cold; you might even dare call it wintry. In fact, on the surface, pretty much everything looks and feels more like a standard late October than a time that’s laying the groundwork for sun and optimism.
The slightly disappointing weather seems to have had an impact on The 1957 Tail Fin Fiasco too. Once a band guaranteed to bring some westcoast American sunshine despite working from a semi-secret location somewhere in the south east of England, their second full length release is somewhat moodier than expected. There are scraps of Steely Dan and remnants of The Doobie Brothers scattered throughout the ten tracks, except this time around, they’ve cast the net of inspiration far wider and come up with a record that’s steeped in loss and the feelings of what could have been.
Somewhere near the end of 2015, Tom Baker (of Boston band Dirty Truckers) rallied round the troops and formed a side project, Tom Baker and The Snakes. A filthy and sloppy three guitar assault, The Snakes featured another face from the Truckers and the guitarist from Watts (albeit switching to drums!), alongside members of Gymnasium and Family Township. The resultant ‘4 Stars‘ EP flaunted a love of the Stones and The Replacments throughout and band’s shamelessly gritty sound represented the musical equivalent of diesel and dirt.
Having already released four studio albums under her own name, including one with other blues musicians Cassie Taylor and Dani Wilde, much like her UK counterpart Joanne Shaw Taylor, Samantha Fish has carved out a successful career on the blues circuit.
The names Matt Knee and Rosie Doonan might not be at the forefront of your mind, but prior to the launch of Dark Horse, both musicians had been fixtures on the music scene in the north of England. Matt had been drummer with Wakefield post-punkers Last Gang, while Rosie – among other things – had found herself with a much higher profile gig as part of Peter Gabriel’s orchestral shows in 2012.
Within Dark Horse, Doonan’s slightly trill vocal style is a good match for the retro pop sound and for some people, this may well prove to be the EP’s main attraction. However, as good a performer as she is, it’s the music that really counts here…and ‘Shot Down’ offers three songs that are an instant mood lifter. The band knows all about making that important first impression, too, making no apologies for front-loading what is arguably their best track.