Various Artists

Strange Angels – In Flight With Elmore James

(AMPED/Sylvan Songs)

When Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac formed and started gigging, they were one of the first acts that my pals and I regularly saw play. In my recent chat with Mick Fleetwood (searchable on this site) we speak in depth about those days. Jeremy Spencer’s total obsession with the works of Elmore James became somewhat wearing, as he insisted on performing them at the same pace and in the same key! Thus it was that in later years, purchasing a James compilation opened my ears to his skills and range. They really should have asked Erja Lyytinnen to appear on this Various Artists compilation, but the people on the set ARE very good. I will buy anything with Rodney Crowell on it! And have never been disappointed…

Can’t Stop Lovin’ You is a lively slide rhumba, with rocking piano and a cute husky vocal from Elayna Boynton and an irresistible kick-off cut, indeed. Next up is Person To Person with the lazy tread background showcasing the regal pleading soul voice of Bettye LaVette giving it the works. G E Smith takes care of the slide guitar part here, over steady Hammond and the great John Leventhal on the baritone guitar. A definite highlight.

On to Crowell handling Shake Your Money Maker on a tempo that’s mixes R&B and Western Swing, tambourine tapping away. Doug Lancio on floating, stabbing slide on this one. Now here comes Tom Jones, no less to take on Done Somebody Wrong at a loping pace, with neat slide fills and tinkling piano. Jones puts his own mark on this track, familiar to Yardbirds fans. Mean Mistreatin’ Mama pairs the kerosene slide guitars of Warren Haynes – also singing – and one Billy Gibbons, both featured in in-depth conversations on this very site, readers. This song gets a mean treatment indeed! Surefooted and dig that Eddie Lang pedal steel then the wailing harp of Mickey Raphael, from Willie Nelson. Haynes turns on one of the best vocals on the collection. At 4:00 Gibbons cruises in, not wasting a note!

The inevitable Dust My Broom has slide from Duke Levine and singing by Tracey Bonham, who gives the song a thorough dusting, showing real authority. It Hurts Me Too is still a song I cannot stand, especially having heard it murdered in many, many venues. Jamey Johnson sings it well, mind and has Haynes on the slide. Strange Angels features sisters Alison Moorer and Shelby Lynne and they take the song on a smooth jukebox trip and it’s the inclusion I will be replaying the most, for sure. It’s hypnotically sexy and steady. Look On Yonder Wall has Keb Mo steered to the mike for a choppy, almost Caribbean delivery..blimey, that time spent with Taj sure left its mark ! My Bleeding Heart was a favourite tune of one Jimi Hendrix and I have a couple of versions by him. Here the vocal is by the delicious Mollie Marriott over a fat snare and steady beat, with midnight electric piano in the mix (Sonny Barbato). Mollie doesn’t so much as sing, as stew the song, with lust bubbling to the top of the cauldron. Hawaiian Boogie was always a fun track by the originator. Doug Lancio takes the slide and Chuck E Weiss supplies the rasping rap. Dark & Dreary is a number I don’t know well, the Addi McDaniel is assured and sensual, with fiddle motifs in the 40s style jazz backdrop. The final track has Rick Holmstrom and Doug Lancio plucking out the theme of Bobby’s Rock with a cool sense of dynamics over the chugging Hammond.

An enjoyable set of EJ numbers with the ladies rather stealing the show.

Pete Sargeant



Various Artists 'Strange Angels – In Flight With Elmore James' is out now on AMPED/Sylvan Songs. 

You can purchase the album from Amazon UK here:

Elmore James