Many of the most ferocious sounds to squall in from the States have emanated from the epicentre of the Alive Naturalsound Rock’n’Roll hurricane in recent years. Vintage archival sets from classic power popsters (The Plimsouls, The Nerves) have rubbed shoulders with rubber-burning albums from snotty youngsters (Occult Detective Club) and time-defying nonagenarian blues meisters like T-Model Ford. Eclectic stuff, for sure, but with one essential chemical ingredient in each case: an intravenous shot of the purest Rock’n’Roll known to man.
‘Donkey Jacket’ is the first UK-related release from Alive Naturalsound. More specifically the mysterious Ystrad Mynach in South Wales, from whence come brothers Aled and Brennig Clifford, the guitar and drum wielding siblings making up HENRY’S FUNERAL SHOE. I have absolutely no idea who the ‘Henry’ is or what his ‘funeral shoe’ may be, but – on this evidence – I can only assume it’s a vintage cowboy boot and its’ owner comes brandishing a bottle of Jack Daniels’ for his fellow mourners. Because ‘Donkey Jacket’ (the band’s second full-length opus) kicks like the most ornery of mules after one of those special Rock’n’Roll injections doled out by Alive’s personal Rock’n’Roll doctor.
When I reveal HFS come minus a bassist and have a penchant for hard-drivin’, punky blues-rock, you’re probably already ripping up the last of your White Stripes scrapbooks. But such rash actions would be premature, for HFS play their Southern-fried boogie and redemptive Delta Blues with a convincingly visceral streak that’s theirs alone. Sure, tracks like ‘The Walking Crawl’, ‘Mission & Maintenance’ and the sprawling opener ‘Be Your Own Invention’ all ride enormous, bucking bronco blues riffs a la ‘Led Zeppelin 2’, but Aled’s whiskey-soaked vocals howl the blues with authenticity to spare and Brennig’s monolithic drum clatter is enough to scare the living bejaysus out of Meg White.
Besides, there’s enough variety here to breathe new life into this oft-copied two-man Rock’n’Roll set-up. The dirty, sweaty ‘Love is A Fever’ (the one place they give into a bassline) is a propulsive, hip-shakin’ garage rock anthem. ‘Dog Scratched Ear’ (“you got street fightin’ hands and a Rock’n’Roll face/ you show affection in other ways”) is a tense, blues-y powder keg ready to blow and the redemptive ‘Bottom to Top’ paints in fresh acoustic colour courtesy of mandolin and fork-tongued dobro. The vulnerable ‘Heart on Fire’ is arguably better still, while the one stab at a recognisable ‘ballad’ (the closing ‘Across the Sky’) is pulled off convincingly and even has a touch of prime-time John Lennon about it.
Skilfully melding garage, hard rock, punk, blues and occasional folks-y frailty, Henry’s Funeral Shoe make a colossal racket for a mere two geezers. They make admirable Blighty-based ambassadors to represent Alive Naturalsound and their ongoing quest to bring real, foundation-shakin’ Rock’n’Roll back to much larger audiences all around the world.
Henry's Funeral Shoe on MySpace
Alive Naturalsound online