Hurray For The Riff Raff – Look Out Mama
Now you all will have no doubt heard of the band Alabama Shakes by now, it'd be hard not to have with the amount of radio airplay they've been getting since their debut album's release. They've been praised for their Americana soul rock, a huge plate full of that dirty Deep South sound. But if you want the true taste of the Deep South flavour, then Hurray For The Riff Raff have the perfect menu on offer with Look Out Mama. Cooked up by a born and bred Bronx New Yorker no less.
That New Yorker is Alynda Lee Segarra, who ran away from the oft touted 'greatest city In the world' at the age of 17 for a life of freight train hopping and playing with The Dead Man Street Orchestra. Now though she's the singer and songwriter for Hurray For The Riff Raff and after 3 self-released records on their home soil and a compilation released in Europe, this is the first LP to be released in both.
Whilst it's the New Yorker Segarra who's the creative force behind the band, their sound plays heavy homage to where they found each other in The Big Easy, New Orleans. It's a decidedly more bluesy affair than the last eponymous album which led you down a twisting modern country-folk route. This time around you get country, but it's classic country instead. The type of country you'll find on that tape in your car nobody ever listens to. Only on the album, it's permeated with elements of the Delta Blues that's so prevalent in Segarra's adopted city.
The music and influences of New Orleans are infused throughout the LP, so much so that develops into a love letter for the devastated city. From the classic blues opening track of 'Little Black Star' complete with hand claps and gospel overtones to the Cajun violin that entwines itself throughout the album. And whilst there's no brass in the mix it's the melting pot of music that New Orleans represents so well that shines through.
Now you can't talk about Riff Raff without mentioning Segarra, which I think I've covered (and she covers her story herself in 'Ramblin' Gal'). But what I haven't touched yet, is her voice. It's a doleful drawl that lands somewhere between Steve Earle ad K T Tunstall, heavy on the Earle. It's a voice that sounds beyond her years, like it's seen a lot for one lifetime, and considering her adventures across America so far that could be true.
The album is seriously a joy from start to finish. Sure there's a bit of a wobble around 'Lake Of Fire' where they decide to take a rock 'n' roll turn and it ends up a bit flat, and 'Go Out On The Road' may go a little bit too Dolly Parton. But the sparse brilliance of 'Ramblin' Gal' and Delta Spirit like melancholy of 'Something's Wrong' more than make up for any stumble along the way.
Whilst they may share a producer with Alabama Shakes in Andrija Tokic, the two bands took very different routes. Don't expect to hear Hurray For The Riff Raff on the radio outside of BBC Radio2 any time soon, but who cares really? Go out and buy this album and I promise you, when your kids listen to it during their formative years, they'll love it and it'll change their perception of genre defining their tastes. If it doesn't, look me up and I'll personally apologise to you and them.
Best album of the year in the following genres: Americana, Blues, Cajun, and country folk in it's truest sense.