Jimmy and the Mustangs
Cherry Bomb is available at:
Los Angeles/Texas, U.S.A.
The album Another Round can be purchased here:
1st October 2015
Roll the Dice
Ready, Set, Go! (A Tribute to Gene)
Her Love is Gone
Rock My World
I Won’t Cry for You
Hotel San Jose
Love is Just Pretend
Long Black Train
THERE are so few Rockabilly artists out there...
making their presence curious and interesting. Music seems to work on the assumption everything needs to be forward-thinking and modern. You find comparatively few artists that look back and revoke the sounds of the past- genres that have been overlooked and passed by. I get to review so few ‘mature’ bands that have been playing for a while: evolved their music and lived an incredible life. So much of music is transitory and temporary. With the pressure on musicians and succeeding instantly: so few last for decades and manage to exist. It is a sad sign of the industry that a lot of bands and artists are crumbling under pressure. Those that overcome the hurdles and pitfalls of music- the fortitude and talent to remain and prosper- are to be congratulated. My featured artist- who I shall come to in a moment- has been playing since the ‘80s: emanating from the Californian Punk scene to their current base of Texas- playing Rockabilly sounds that date to the early-‘50s. Rockabilly itself started in the South of the U.S. and brought together genres like Country, Rhythm-and-Blues, and Bluegrass- a portmanteau of ‘Rock' and ‘Hillbilly’. Boogie Woogie, Jump Blues, and Western Swing. Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly were the forerunners of the initial movement and opened it up to the masses. The ‘60s saw Rockabilly decline- it sounded outdated and out-of-touch; artists like The Beatles did try to keep it alive, in some respects- and saw its number decline.
During the 1970s and ‘80s, bands like The Stray Cats re-sparked the flame and brought (the music) back in vogue. Since then, there have been various movements and genres- Rockabilly has mutated and spawned genres like Punk-Rock and Neo-Rockabilly. The latter is represented by bands like Kings of Leon, The White Stripes and Morrissey. Whilst it might be hard to draw a line from Rockabilly to those artists: each were influenced by the genre; taking a little something into their own music. Whether the north-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line examples like Bill Flagg; Tennessee acts The Burnettes and Burlison (and) Presley; Tennessee’s Carl Perkins- you cannot deny the effects and inspiration these musicians provided (to the current crop). While Punk-Rock and Neo-Rockabilly have replaced Rockabilly: there is a clan of revivalists that are ensuring Rockabilly’s core and purity is kept alive. European interest in Rockabilly has seen musicians like Imelda May update and polish Rockabilly. Before I continue my point, let me introduce Jimmy and the Mustangs to you:
“Jimmy and the Mustangs is an American roots rock band fronted by Jimmy Haddox. Emerging from the Punk Scene in Southern California during the 80’s, Jimmy and the Mustangs played their first live show to a sold out audience opening for the renowned all girl band, The Go-Go’s. At the time, the band’s “root’s music” was fueled by fury driven; gut wrenching guitars, not unlike their punk contenders of that era. As the band progressed, a more definitive sound began to evolve and Jimmy and the Mustangs carved out a style of Rockabilly and Swing unlike any other band in Los Angeles at the time. World famous Hollywood Nightclubs like The Whiskey, The Roxy and The Starwood began booking Jimmy and the Mustangs as an opening act for L.A. bands such as X, The Blasters and Los Lobos as well as touring bands such as Chuck Berry, The Stray Cats and Joe Ely, just to name a few. It wasn’t long before Jimmy and the Mustangs were headlining the same clubs with sold out shows of their own.
In a 1982 Los Angeles Times review of their sold-out Roxy show “filled with uaff-headed rocking cats and their petticoated kittens”, the group was described as “not just a band. The Roxy show featured a full-scale production number, complete with guest musicians, guest singers” and others. Not long after being hired by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame to perform at his own private party, the band was sought out by Bruce Springsteen who joined them onstage. An East Coast Tour followed. Upon returning home to L.A., the band received its first record deal with Vanity Records, which sold an excess of 40,000 copies. Television and Movie appearances followed. A self-titled E.P. was released on the Curb/MCA label and included the song “Justine” which was made into a video and received play on MTV (back when it was cool). Jimmy has a new lineup and is playing to great audiences throughout Texas. Look for exciting things in the coming months”.
Jimmy and the Mustangs is a band that adds shine and freshness to Rockabilly: something bracing, electric and new. Imelda May has ensured Rockabilly is kept in the mindset and forefront: critics have latched onto albums like Tribal (her last, released in 2014): the music reverberates with energy and declaration- it is impossible to ignore the force and authority of the songs. Jimmy and the Mustangs are playing Rockabilly in its natural location: the South of the U.S. Exciting and enthralling artists in Texas; the guys released Another Round at the end of 2015. The album is packed with tracks that introduce colourful characters; ‘50s-influenced romances and combustible, get-your-feet-dancing tunes. Texas is not the first location you’d look to for brilliant, exciting music. It might be naïve but states like California and New York are higher in the rankings: the natural leaders for the best new music in America. Texas should not be overlooked. If you want something gritty, raucous and Outlaw-Folk: Dirty Rover Boys from El Paso are your bag. Hip-Hop master Fat Tony has excited Houston (and Texas) with his exceptional music. San Antonio’s Hacienda are an Indie-Rock band on the rise; The Tontons (Houston) thrill you with Indie-Rock swagger- Wild Moccasins evoke the spirit of Blondie and Talking Heads. You can’t ignore the quality and variety coming out of Texas. We tend to get too obsessed with California and New York for our U.S. music: that comes at the detriment of other states. Jimmy and the Mustangs are one of the most unique and exciting bands playing Texas- their fan numbers are solid and they have a great local reputation. Playing in Austin: they are in a city that has seen some exceptional acts come and go. 13th Floor Elevators, Butthole Surfers, and Explosions in the Sky call Austin home. Throw in Black Angel and Spoon and it is a city well worth closer scrutiny.
Another Round is the band’s most up-to-date record: we can look back and see how they have changed and adapted. The line-up for Jimmy and the Mustangs has changed over the years- along with their sound. Another Round is a more adventurous and compelling collection- compared with older work- and shows more urgency, depth and memorability. The songs are fresher, wittier and more intriguing: the vocals are at their peak and the band is as exceptional as you could imagine. The band began life (with an older line-up) opening for acts like X, The Blasters and Los Lobos- when they started life in L.A. Playing clubs like The Whiskey and The Roxy: the gang toured with the likes of The Stray Cats and Chuck Berry: establishing themselves as one of the best bands on the West Coast. By 1982, Jimmy and the Mustangs exploded. Their shows were productions that featured quaffed, quaff-headed guys and beautiful women; full-scale replications of 1950s Rockabilly- a time-warp that seduced critics and put them on the map. Given their status and reputation (in the ‘80s): the likes of Robert Plant and Bruce Springsteen hired them; lined-up to work with them. The band toured the West and East Coast: they signed with Vanity Records when they returned to L.A. T.V. and film appearances- getting their music to the wider audience- lead to M.T.V. exposure and support. The ‘first phase’ of Jimmy and the Mustangs- 1982’s Hey Little Girl to their eponymous E.P. in 1984- saw them at their peak. The original line-up made some incredible music and clearly resonated with U.S. (and international) audiences. Having moved to Texas; the new- improved, to my mind- band is something you need to hear.
Jimmy and the Mustangs might not enjoy the same success they enjoyed in the 1980s- that is not to say they have lost their step. If anything, they are at the peak of their powers. Another Round is an album that digs into music’s past and comes up with many gems. More expansive, wide-ranging and impassioned than ever before- it is their greatest work so far. Back in the ‘80s; Rockabilly was enjoying something of a resurgence- it started to die-off and crumble in the 1990s. Given the demand and popularity: it was not surprising Jimmy and the Mustangs accrued fans, airplay and T.V. attention. In today’s scene; Rockabilly is less-popular and has to work harder to stick in the mind. There are a lot of similarly-minded acts playing: the mainstream and popular stations have embraced other genres- Rockabilly acts are seen as niche and underground. For that reason, sticking in the imagination is a harder task; it takes more talent and drive. Another Round is not just an album that does Rockabilly proud: it could challenge with any of the best albums from this year- or last year; if you want to dabble with semantics.
Cherry Bomb is the song I want to focus on: I feel it best represents the sound and personality of Another Round. The defiance and get-to-the-dancefloor attitude are personified in this track. Blogs and the media have been heaping praise of Another Round. I was keen to see if the band- who started as a Punk-Rock act, remember- approached Cherry Bomb. Before you can prime your senses- and get your head together- the band rock in with a rousing, call-to-arms celebration. The horns blare with sassiness and ripe receptiveness; the percussions get into the groove and give the song a definite kick and drive. Such a tropical, colourful and dance-worthy introduction- part of you is inside an island-vibe conga; the other in the milkshake parlours of the 1950s- ensures you’re fascinated and smiling. I love a song that gets down to business right away. Jimmy Haddox is a man who is direct and clear: he wants the listener engaged and dancing in the first seconds. When our hero comes to the microphone, he has some heavy burdens on his shoulders. Cherry Bomb- perhaps the name of his sweetheart: you wonder who is causing such stress and anxiety. Cherry Bomb is a title that has been employed by a number of artists- in addition to being the name of a firework. A 1976 single from Punk band, The Runaways; a 2009 film; a recent album by Tyler, the creator- few have taken that name and created something as spirited and jubilant. Even when assessing something scornful and deceitful- his girl is treating him badly; his heart is being torn- there is no depressive undertone or sorrowful mood. The band ensures things are light and breezy- without cheapening the sentiments or burying true emotions. “Come on baby light my fuse” is a declaration that had me intrigued.
Despite being poorly treated or teased- you imagine there is a flirtatiousness that is getting our man hot- Haddox is ready to sweat and explode- ready to get down and dirty. One wonders whether Cherry Bomb looks at a girl or a car. Perhaps a sobriquet for a cherished muscle car: something that is unreliable but provides growl and excitement; a ride you can pound through the desert landscapes. That said, the lyrics must lead many to more obvious conclusions: a special woman is in the frame; someone titillating and pure; kitten-like and sexual- a brilliant fusion of ‘50s innocence and modern-day sexuality. “Your love is driving me insane” as it is told. Enraptured and caught in a spider’s web: will our hero be able to set himself free? The composition continues to swing with reckless abandon and a gleeful smile. You picture petticoat-wearing girls serving at a diner: the jukebox blaring and patrons chatting and reveling. Other tracks on Another Round have more modern, gritty sounds: Cherry Bomb is a pure, unfettered nod to the halcyon days of Rockabilly. The hero is burning for the girl but, like Icarus flying towards the sun, he has got too close. Perhaps she is a temptress that lures men to their fate- a Siren on the rocks- but Haddock is keen to take a chance and sacrifice his heart. Tones that remind me of early-days Elvis Presley- there is that same burr and Memphis drawl- you hope (the hero) gets satisfaction. Few modern songs have that blend of innocence and sex: a chaste and courtship-like romance with the intention of satisfaction and sweat. It is a cocktail that gives Cherry Bomb a two-level appeal. The “firecracker” and dynamite- at this point; comparisons to the firework are most pertinent- is burning our man. Unable to get too close- maybe our guys are swarming- every listener will have their own view. I imagined a blonde girl in a red dress. A red lipstick-wearing heroine with red heels and an alluring smile: a Marilyn Monroe-cum-Jean Harlow figure that gets the guys swooning and blushing. Imbued with a fiery edge and sharp tongue- elements of Dorothy Parker to her, maybe? - I can understand the appeal. Jimmy and the Mustang’s lead wants his fuse lit- it is a firework metaphor but you can’t help thinking of smuttier images- and satisfaction.
Many reviews have compared Another Round’s music with Grease and its flair. When listening to the songs- especially Cherry Bomb- you cannot help but transport yourself to a past time. At his most wracked and edgy: our man elicits a wolf-like howl; the horns blare with intensity and the entire band is at their (electric) best. If you isolate the composition; one will notice all the little details come together. A piano roll here; neat little drum fills and nuanced brass. The band does not sit in the background and merely provide support for their leader. Instead, they create a wonderful, rich score that gets the imagination wondering and projects a film scene in the mind. Jazzy, riffed horn lines add urgency and force: you get a real burst and thrust from the instruments; adding such a vibrancy and candour to the song. Whilst the hero takes a few seconds out- needing to regroup and recharge the batteries- the band step forward and provide a beautiful interlude. A carnival-like atmosphere gives Cherry Bomb such a sway and swagger. After the horns have done their thing- very assuredly and wonderfully- the electric guitars come forth. Blues-flavoured and meaningful: catchy, barbed-wire riffs get under the skin and will invigorate the senses. From the sexual, intense sound of the horns- representing desire, seduction and inner-tension- the guitars evoke firework crackle and explosive vixens- the effect the girl is having on the hero. Soon enough, Haddox has come back- taken a cold shower and had a beer, perhaps?- and is back for more. It seems the two have a history together- “Every time we kiss…” suggests they are in a relationship- and he is completely smitten. Every kiss sends shivers and shakes through his bones; the blood runs hot and the head spins.
A cross between Have Love Will Travel (The Sonics) and Little Willie John’s I’m Shakin’: you get such much grove, bravado and confidence come through. From the wise-stepping and cautious openings- our hero standing in line and desperate for release- he is a more satisfied and contented place. The final minutes sees a reinterpretation of the opening sentiments. Whilst in her thoughts and affections: those heart-melting, soul-shaking ruction is still occurring. The sweat drips and the nerves are frayed. Even when together and in a relationship: the girl is still causing this pain and tease. Maybe things will never be different. Perhaps she will always keep him at arm’s-length and be a temptress. By the closing notes- the band are still fully primed and tight- our man lets out a howl and seems completely bereft. Cherry Bomb gives Another Round personality, zest, and dance. There are other tracks that have a similar energy and charm: none has quite the same effect and aftertaste. Polished, rich production values ensure all the instruments and vocals burst into the brain. You can imagine what a fun time the guys had in the studio. Never a static and phoned-in performance: one envisages the musicians smiling and dancing as they played. Jimmy Haddox sounds like a man possessed. He must have been rocking and moving all around the vocal booth- recalling a particular girl who has left her mark on his heart. You know (the song’s heroine) is not intentionally cruel: she is one of those women who could have her pick of men. Let’s hope our man managed to win the girl and felt more relaxed down the line. Cherry Bomb is a track that never loosens its grasp and continues to impress- long after it has ended.
The guys from Jimmy and the Mustangs have been a little quiet lately. Their album was released last year: since then; they have been touring it and promoting it. In terms of new music, I am not sure if they have any plans for the rest of this year. Perhaps another album will come (in 2017) or a single: something that keeps them in the mind and ensures momentum remains. You would forgive the guys for taking a break and letting the dust settle for a bit. Having performed since the ‘80s: Jimmy Haddox is not someone who takes time out and puts his feet up. From his days in the Punk-Rock scene to Jimmy and the Mustangs: a musician that has survived and prospered; giving inspiration to many out there. I began by stating how many musicians are short-term and temporary. Given the financial and commercial pressures (new musicians) face: many are unable to meet demands and collapse under the strain. Even the finest, most-original acts find it tough going. Jimmy Haddox has lasted so long due to his evolving songwriting and dedication to music. From the woozy brass and romantic vocals of Hotel San Jose; the jive and dance of Roll the Dice; the Blues stomp of I Won’t Cry for You- Another Round has something for everyone. While Rockabilly will find it hard appealing to everyone- it might never make its way fully back into the mainstream- it should not be ignored or mocked. Far from it. Given the tremendous energy, positivity and retro. charm of it- it is a style of music that provides smile and uplift. Even if you were not alive in the ‘50s- I, for example- that does not mean Rockabilly will be lost on you.
Jimmy and the Mustangs hop between genres. Blues, Rock, Punk, and Pop are in there with Country and Folk: no two songs sound the same; the muscular and joyous songs will appeal to the stoniest of hearts. It doesn’t matter what your tastes are and what you are used to. Great music- regardless of origin and genre- should be heard and appreciated. Another Round has enough shading, diversity, and emotional balance to ensure it speaks to everyone. I Won’t Cry for You is a chugging juggernaut that is among the most exhilarating and intense songs of the band’s career. Bourbon Street has Country tones and sees our hero craft a love song to alcohol. Whether sipping gin or downing bourbon: maybe his troubles are intense; maybe a girl is on his mind. Even when subject matters get dark and heavy: there is enough bonhomie and wit in the lyrics to keep things fun and un-suffocated. Her Love Is Gone and Love Is Just Pretend are two highlights from the album: exploring the true depths and abilities of the band. If you need a pick-me-up and lift: you can do no wrong buying Another Round. The songs brim with character and frivolity; a sense of purpose, fun, and merriment. The band does go into more introverted and love-lost territory- even those songs have spirit and vibrancy. There is never a dull moment with the Austin clan. Mixing the purity of Rockabilly- the true ‘50s sound- with modern vibes and elements- it is a stunning album from start to finish. Many will see the word ‘Rockabilly’ written down and have their assumptions. Maybe they picture the likes of Buddy Holly and assume we will have a 21st-century version of Peggy Sue.
I feel too many artists are being ignored because of stereotypes and ignorance. Too few actually cast a wide net and embrace everything music has to offer. We all have our favourite genres and bands: how often do we take gambles and spread our wings? Maybe diehard music fans do; the rest are perfectly comfortable staying with what they know. Jimmy and the Mustangs have been playing around Texas since the release of Another Round. One wonders whether the band will come to the U.K. and play here. We have affection for older styles of music and acts that bring the fun. Even when the Austin band takes the lights down- and provides something emotional- you are with them and invested. Jimmy Haddock is a man who has seen music change greatly. Many- who started out decades ago- would struggle to evolve with the times and adapt their music. Haddox has a voice that makes everything sound completely wonderful and hypnotic. The compositions have so much life and texture; many strands and ideas that come together naturally.
The band has a connection and love that makes the music so enthralling and beautiful. Haddox is a front-man that has many years ahead of him and will take The Mustangs with him. Another Round is not a throwback to the ‘50s and the sound of men who hate the modern age. Jimmy and the Mustangs take us back to a simpler time but never keep their music there. ‘90s Blues-Rock and modern Country fuses with Rhythm-and-Blues and ‘60s British Invasion Pop- a compendium of brilliant songs that compel you to sing along wildly. I earnestly hope the boys come to Europe and spend some time touring here. We have plenty of pubs and venues that cater for this kind of music: plenty of British acts that play similar sounds. Against the ultra-modern and urgent Electronic.-Pop/Post-Dubstep that has defined 2016- the best albums at least- it is nice to hear an act that takes you back in time- something more comforting and spirited; not quite as intense and brooding. Another Round is a drunken pleasure- see what I did there?!- that is addictive and energised. On a rainy day- it is England; what do you expect?- Jimmy and the Mustangs provide…
JUST what you need from music.
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