A New Orleans-based collective fronted by the unfeasibly mature-sounding 23 year-old Alynda Lee Segarra, HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF are set to raise Americana-loving eyebrows with their highly individual brand of skeletal and arcane music.
Although it’s the first we’ve heard of them this side of the pond, ‘Hurray For the Riff Raff’ isn’t actually their debut album per se as the tracks are culled from their two US releases, 2008’s ‘It Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You’ and last year’s inspired ‘Young Blood Blues’. It matters little in the overall scheme of things, though, as one soused and regretful dirge staggers mercurially to the next, leaving a trail of bourbon and broken hearts in its wake.
The HFTRR sound falls enthusiastically between stools. It’s broadly Americana in design, frequenting the Appalachian mountains for its moonshine folk and the backstreets of the Crescent city for its’ bruised and funereal Cajun. The arrangements are primarily stark and mournful, with dogged French accordions jousting with banjos, upright bass and shambolic, seasick drumming. Throw in Alynda’s throaty and slightly threatening vocals and you have something otherworldly, but frequently glorious.
Opener ‘Meet Me in the Morning’ sets the tone beautifully. The sound of an ancient upright piano (more like a Pianola) playing by itself in an empty room and captured on crackly shellac, it seems to have been beamed in from another world. It’s a great start and the ideal introduction to ‘Is That You?’ where Alynda’s lyrics open with the surreal brilliance of “I saw your ghost at the grocery store/ I thought it was you” and the band stir up a suitably fragrant, Cajun-inspired stew. With the ensuing ‘Slow Walk’, a feisty fiddle gets in on the act, yet while all the musical elements seem loose and ragged, they seem to hang together quite beautifully overall.
Further highlights include the displaced country-folk of ‘Daniella’ (or “Dan-yeller” as Alynda pronounces it in her kooked, Cat Power-style tones), the sparse, yet sexy ‘I Know You’ and the scarred Basin Street grace of ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’. Perhaps best of all is the closing ‘Young Blood Blues’: a heartbreak-soaked lament egged on by banjo and pedal steel where Alynda moans “he walked out of this world as lonely as he came/ you can rest assured you won’t see my man again” with the weight of a woman three times her age sitting on her youthful shoulders. In layman’s terms, it’s a show-stopper and the ideal way to leave us hanging.
‘Hurray for the Riff Raff’ is a strange, subtle and sometimes deceptively sloppy seduction. Its’ execution can often seem lackadaisical, yet there’s something potent and addictive about both the band’s curious blend of Southern Gothic and backwoods Americana that drags you into their broken, blasted world and makes you a believer. Consider me a convert.
Hurray for the Riff Raff online
Loose Music online
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