Gypsy Mojo - The Hollerin Sluggers (self released)
Born out of a surf club fundraiser, this trio from the Manly Dam Delta on Sydney’s Northern Beaches have just rolled out album number two. “Gypsy Mojo” makes it clear that if The Hollering Sluggers have sold their souls to the Devil at the Brookvale Oval crossroads, they ain’t getting a refund.
The Sluggers are a trio playing blue collar blues with a distinct rock and roll edge. There’s no new ground being broken on “Gypsy Mojo” but that’s not going to worry fans of this style. It’s honest and unpretentious blues-rock.
A dozen songs make up “Gypsy Mojo” and the band knows how to play them. New bassist Tim Cramer and drummer Andy Thor lock in nicely and Owen Mancell’s tuneful vocal and hard-edged guitar playing fill the space at centre stage. Andy Thor adds some raucous blues harp.
There are blues bands and there are rock and roll bands. The Sluggers firmly stand on the rock and roll side of the divide. Mancell’s guitar work on the opening “Hush Hoggies Hush”, the power charged title track, makes it self evident. The purists will retreat to their Jimmy Reed records and Robert Johnson box sets. Nobody else will care.
See, the lines between blues and rock blurred a long time ago - at least in the context of the Australian suburban beer barn circuit (R.I.P.) where this sort of music was the soundtrack to many a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. If you like your blueswailin’ with lead in its pencil. “Gypsy Mojo” will likely do the business for you. Not many Aussie bands are doing it better.
“Shut Up And Dance” nails itself to the ground with staccato fills and a teak-tough guitar figure. “Train To Nowhere” hovers close to falling in the trap of being just another blues song but ultimately shows the Sluggers know how to write a song that employs dynamics to drag you in. Although the song’s not in the same league, the lyrics of “Five Cent Fool” take a big bite out of commercialism, chew it up and spit it out. It ends up sounding like Matt Taylor with a rock band following his cues.
Owen Mancell gets disturbingly close to sounding like Eddie Vedder on "On Your Feet Again" but his neat lead-break saves the song and things pick up for the rest of the album from there. The dirty, swampy slide of "Nothing You Haven't Tried" follows and makes its predecessor's earnestness a distant memory.
Oz blues has long a deep investment in boogie and shuffle feels, and The Hollerin Sluggers bring both to the game in spades on a cut like “Rockin Saturday Night” or “Going Up The River”. If ZZ Top grew up in Narrabeen instead of Texas this is what they’d sound like.
Russell Pilling’s production at the iconic but affordable Damien Gerard Studios is as good as you’d expect, and Bill Bowden’s mastering packs the punch to make “Gypsy Mojo” jump out of the speakers.