In terms of keeping things retro, vocalist Mozzy Dee does an absolutely superb job on her 2023 release ‘Orale!’. Instead of taking the garage rock and power pop route of most of her Rum Bar Records label mates, Ms. Dee revels in a 1950s universe where the upright basses twang with a thundering elasticity and the electric guitars carry a massive twang that – in revivalist terms – is only beaten by the best Chris Isaak LP.
…And much like that legendary singer songwriter and his retro narratives, Mozzy understands that, obviously, if you’re going to do retro properly, there’s little point in putting your own twist on it. ‘Orale!’ has a wonderfully authentic sound throughout that’ll win you over with immediate effect if you have even the tiniest love for old rockabilly, Patsy Cline and Carl Perkins records.
Its opening number ‘Let Mama Do It’ wastes no time in taking the listener back in time when a distorted, live sounding guitar throws out chords that sound like a ragged Scotty Moore jamming a Carl Perkins melody, before branching out into a pointed lead where a grumbling sound gives away the more modern studio set up. The slightly more aggressive tones never detract from the 50s influences, of course, and Dee’s voice is huge enough and crisp enough to sound like something more authentic throughout as she hammers through a rather sneering melody. These two minutes will be more than enough to either start a love affair or decide that Dee’s rockabilly revelling isn’t to your taste, but assuming you’re a fan of the style, the album just gets better from here.
With a cleaner sound and slower tempo, ‘Tall, Dark & Handsome’ is a brilliantly sultry number where Dee gets to wrap her voice around something a little more smoky sounding. With the ghosts of Peggy Lee and Patsy Cline informing everything, Dee’s world of sass and heartbreak simmers with the longer notes and an occasionally impassioned cry; the wavering trill at the end of each line only reinforces her natural talent. Musically speaking, it’s just as great; a walking bassline and prominent drum shuffle capture the live sound of the great Sun recordings, and with traces of Link Wray in the lead guitar work, there’s just enough bite to balance out the smoother edges. With a shift further towards energetic rock ‘n’ roll, ‘Love Loves To Hurt Me’ is as much a showcase for the guitar as the voice, and although Mozzy and her assembled talents don’t necessarily bring a twenty first energy to this studio recording, their tightness and volume combined ensures this late 50s/early 60s throwback works a treat. Dee really pushes for some huge notes, which works especially well when she adds a huge warble to the last lines before guitarist C.E. Clendining is given the opportunity to launch into a strident lead break. None of this would work without a great rhythm, of course; crane your ears past the big voice and you’ll discover a rumbling groove from the bass that sounds as if it’s been lifted from Hank Mizell’s classic ‘Jungle Rock’, giving some muscle to an already brilliant track.
Opting for a little more fun, ‘Let’s Stroll’ allows the ladies to “shimmer and shake and make those boys wait”, on a tune that’s a brilliant rockabilly homage. Vocal elements of jubilant Patsy Cline numbers jostle against riffs that sound as if they want to break into Ed Haas’s ‘Munsters Theme’, creating one of the album’s most fun tunes, before the title cut blends rockabilly sensibilities with something a little more percussion heavy, flaunting a slight Latin bent. As you might expect, the band are more than adept at a more more melodic style, and the potentially smoother edges don’t so much add a softness as cast more of a spotlight onto another superb vocal. With Mozzy backed by a few rousing gang vocals and an echoing rhythm guitar, this sounds like the work of the most focused bar band ever.
The pure rockabilly of ‘Indeed’ sounds a little more like a Bill Haley throwback than a take on an Elvis classic from ’56, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad. With elements of ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ at their disposal, the band quickly latch onto a great melody where C.E. employs an almost jazzy tone to his guitar playing, and bassist Luke Metz sounds like he’s having the best time rattling his four strings. Mozzy takes another opportunity to deliver another Cline-esque vocal, again proving a very natural affinity for sounds created long before she stood upon a stage, before the semi-bluesy ‘Take’ pushes her range back into something a little more aggressive. The music’s stop/start riff gives her a little more space, and she uses that to share a full on cry that cements any feelings that this debut LP might be something special. With a great set rounded out by ‘Mess Around’ – another mix of Carl Perkins meets Patsy Cline, helmed by a chopping guitar and a great lead sound – and ‘Yesterday’s Paper’, a number that applies a slightly more distorted sound to a rock ‘n’ roll workout that’s big on vocal, but a little bigger on late 50s guitar riffs taking Dee a little nearer to The BellRays at their most retro, ‘Orale!’ really doesn’t have any obvious filler.
With nine songs playing through a really short 25 minutes, this debut has the spirit of an old Sun Records disc or RCA LP from the 50s. It takes serious dedication to sound like you’re having so much fun in a recording studio, but Mozzy Dee truly brings these songs to life. If you have even the most fleeting interest in US sounds that hark back to a pre-British Invasion time, then this is a record that’ll deliver. It might be very knowing, but with charm and hooks galore, ‘Orale!’ offers a huge amount of entertainment in a pleasingly small package.