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Juju Claudius

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Album Review

You might think the last thing the world needs is another British blues band, and you may well be right, but Billy Childish has no interest in covering the same territory Eric Clapton or John Mayall pounded into dust years ago, and he's determined to bring some blood, sweat, and grit back to the country blues on the debut album from his latest combo, the Chatham Singers. The 14 songs on Ju Ju Claudius are built around the combination of Childish's trademark guitar work and "passion over precision" vocals and Bludy Jim's howling harmonica, and while most of the album finds the band roaring in full electric glory as if the Chess Studio had magically reappeared in the U.K., a couple cuts were recorded as an acoustic ensemble and "The Ballad of Elizabeth Sargent" makes it clear Childish and his bandmates understand the roots of this music better than your average bunch of aging punk rockers. Bassist Ju Ju Claudius isn't quite as strong a vocalist as Childish (if he's not studied, he has a strong sense of what makes this music work), and her versions of "Queen Bee" and "Demolition Man" are just a bit too histrionic for their own good. But when the Chatham Singers connect with the material, they hit hard, and these songs conjure an air of dread, fear, and desire that honors the deep roots of the blues better than the vast majority of mainstream blues acts recording and touring today. Billy Childish may be more interested in singing about art, myth, or alienation than the usual paeans to whiskey and women, but the core of this music sounds, feels, and breathes like real, living blues, and Ju Ju Claudius is a welcome detour from one of the most indefatigable musicians alive today.

Juju Claudius, The Chatham Singers
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