|Action! Action! Action! - King Memphis
Broken White Records, BW 6010
From their "astonishing" 1995 debut CD on UK rockabilly label Nervous Records to their brand new CD on Broken White, King Memphis holds all the cards; great songs and plenty of style from vocalist Kris Eckhardt, the upper-echelon guitar talent of Matt Robbins, and one of the cookin'est rhythm sections around in Kris Day (upright bass) and Mike Dank (drums). Veterans of Viva Las Vegas 2000, The Rockabilly Ball (Seattle, WA), the Hemsby Festival and a four month U.S. tour with the great Ronnie Dawson, King Memphis are used to Action! Action! Action! That's what they give and that's what they get. Recorded at the Track Farm in Portland, Maine, using nothing but the finest vintage equipment (from the mikes they sang into to the cars they drove up in) to give this album that 'straight from the drive-in speaker' sound.
My curiosity was immediatly roused up when I opened the package from Broken White that just fell on my doormat, because the cover of this album attracts immediat attention. Great artwork up front with all the right ingredients; hot rods, drag racers and rockabilly guitars. The six-page inlay has it all, including a BSA Royal Star AND the lyrics of the songs, plus a beautiful compilation of hot rod parts advertising on the inside of the jewel case. The tracklisting on the back shows a total of 16 tracks, one of which is called an "intermission", which in this case is a 50s style commercial. Among the 15 songs you will find ONLY ONE cover, a rockabilly version of Rock Rogers' country song "That Ain't It" (when was the last time you heard that one?) and the remaining 14 tracks are all King Memphis orginals. Nothing but class so far, and I haven't even heard one tone yet, no wonder I was quite anxious to put this platter in the CD player...
Let the show begin! Those are the first words that howl from the CD, a short introduction and some jungle noises, followed by the first track, "Jungle Bop", a classy guitar instro with a rockabilly beat. Oh-wee neighbours, you better hide, 'cause after just one track I already figured out there is only one way to play this record; LOUD! The second song "Jackrabbit Joe" is vintage rockabilly with a bite, which, as the lyrics say, goes like hell! And now take Paul Burlison's scorching guitar from "Honey Hush" and turn down the pitch, what you get is "Flat Black Cadillac", bluesy and rockin'. "Bloody Nose" is fast paced rockabilly with a raving slapping bass and a mean lead guitar, while "Don't Sweet Talk Me No More" starts off as a country song with a beat, but it picks up speed after the first verse and it keeps changing moods a couple more times after that. "Cowpoke In A Tornado" is a true western song, which beautifully shows Kris Eckhardt's vocal capacities, graced with a sharp pedal steel by Cartwright Thompson. More rockabilly to come, "Back Off Flattop" is a straight bopper with great lyrics.
After the commercial intermission (nice gag) we are presented a real instro surf-party "Shark Bait" with Mark Robbins showing off his skills on lead guitar, wow! Track 10, "Hot Rod Man" (NOT the Tex Rubinowitz song) will surely rock your socks off, vintage rockabilly with a steady beat, I'm sure you'll love the guitar interludes. "Pumpkin Moon - I" is a rock-ballad that slows down the pace for a few minutes, followed by a doo-wop kinda rock 'n' roll song titled "Take A Little Piece", very well done. Next is the afore mentioned Rock Rogers' cover "That Ain't It", only a lot faster than the orginal. Track 14 is a second version of "Pumpkin Moon", this time with a rockabilly beat and a surf-like lead guitar. I must say I like this version a lot better than the slow one before. "Girls Go Wild" is another rock ballad, not your average rock 'n' roll song, it's got more of an 80s sound, but it sure rocks. The last track, "Mosquito Song" is another surf-influenced instro, I think this style can best be described as "The King Memphis Sound" and I'd like to add that I like it A LOT! Just take the best parts of some vintage 50s rockabilly, greasy blues, boppin' country and plain ol' jazz, mix it up with a little 60s surf and instro and what you get is this: King Memphis. Action! Action! Action!
Meet the King Memphis hot-rodders:
Other rockabilly-fired eliminators were: Colin Decker, Scott Link, Sean Mender, Cartwright Thompson and Pip Walter.
King Memphis drink beer exclusively, because it's tasty, and because it makes 'em sound so much better!
Broken White Records
Review by The BlackCat, 2000