LP/CD REVIEWS

SKINNERS CAGE 12” LP– VANCOUVER SUN  (April 2019)

The third album to come from the tireless touring machine that is Big John Bates, Big John Bates: Noirchestra now finds the musician stepping out into slightly different terrain. The songs are less full-on rock attack and more exploring of textures and variations while still working firmly in the Americana Noir genre the band is known for.

It’s a very good fit having the trio of guitarist Bates, bassist Brandy Bones and drummer Ty-Ty expanded to include violinist RequiEmily, who greatly expands the sonic capacities of the group.

The 11 tracks include both originals and covers of Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English, Kurt Weil’s Moon of Alabama and Dead Moon Night by Dead Moon.

1: All the Devils. The opening track is a ragged rocker in line with what fans would associate with a BJB album. But rather than hyper-amped guitar, it’s the violin bowing like crazy that drives the track and also gives it a solidly B-movie spookiness. There is a Theremin lick that is totally addictive.

2: Brandy Bones singing. It’s hard to bring something new to a song as signature as Broken English, but Bones does just that as she seems to cross between Siouxsie Sioux and Courtney Love, giving the moody lyrics new-found heaviness. She can also be downright old-timey as on Thread by Thread.

3: Skinners Cage. The title track begins as a near-folk acoustic number before it builds into a power rocker featuring some parts that wouldn’t sound out of place on a classic psychedelic garage recording from the ’60s. Bates drops a killer solo in this song …

FROM THE BESTIARY (TO THE LEATHERING ROOM) 12” LP – Roadtracks Magazine, Desert Rock Edition (June 2015)
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The 10 tracks of “From The Bestiary To The Leathering Room” find Big John Bates in the world of rock’n’roll, country, gothic, punk rock and blues they call “Americana Noir”. Most of the album was recorded in Vancouver onboard the “Caleuche”, named after a mythical ghost ship. Of course the bottom line is what gets in your ears. Dominating the rhythmic, earthy sound is John’s multifaceted Gretsch guitar playing and Brandy’s dynamic upright bass. Both alternate on lead vocals, Bates with his dark, whisky-tanned voice while his female counterpart Brandy sings in a voice that reminds me of an infernal fusion of Patti Smith and Siouxsie Sioux.

BLACK TIMBER BITTER ROOT 7”- Dynamite Magazine (Sept 2014)
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Rookie Records released two brand-new songs on color, hand-pressed vinyl for the “Black Timber” 7″. On the track “Black Timber” Big John Bates sings about the passing of time, a beautiful song with the usual high quality we expect of him. On “Bitterroot” Brandy Bones Bates uses her vocal diversity to sing about life as an outsider. Brandy’s voice is somewhere between fragility and melancholy; an outsider expressing those feelings perfectly with tight, powerful vocals. Good songs, good musicians and beautiful presentation.

BATTERED BONES 12” LP – Hooked On Music (Sept 2012)
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“Battered Bones is a wonderful mix of roots rock, Americana, blues and an invigorating syringe of rock’n’roll. Songs like Wide Open Blues, the purely instrumental Battered Bones, Circadian Rhythm and Glossilalia have a delicious sound, like whiskey rinsing out a dusty throat on an abandoned highway. Adding distorted guitars to the dark-.‐colored roots sound completes this cinematic head-.‐trip to remote corners of the American West, to abandoned dives and tiny graveyards along the way. The only drawback of this fascinating disc is that it ends too soon.

HEADLESS FOWL 12” EP – Americana UK (Sept 2012)
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Setting the tone is the instrumental opener “Amerkin” … it moves from mournful bass with subdued drums and spectral guitar to a powerhouse of railroad drumming and blood curdling yells. Musically it’s a blend of Jack White style blues, Calliope organ (cello), thumping drums and banshee wails. It’s hypnotic and intriguing but be careful – the left hand may be beckoning – but the hand hidden behind the back is holding that knife, Jack. It may only last a whisker over eighteen minutes but they are eighteen unforgettable minutes – raw and knowing and powerful and all worth hearing.


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