Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Verve
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Rockabilly Revival
Imelda MayTribal(Verve)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars From the tip of her trademarked blonde spit-curl to the bottom of her black boots, Imelda May exudes a tough, take-no-crap attitude that’s reflected in her gutsy, somewhat retro rockabilly and rugged roots rock. She’s a huge star in her native Ireland (her previous release sold platinum there and this one debuted #1 on their charts) but not surprisingly, the American music she clearly loves hasn’t been embraced by stateside listeners, at least not yet. Perhaps this red hot fireball set will change that.
Dubliner Imelda May has done handsomely out of planting herself at the junction where rockabilly, burlesque and street-corner sassiness meet, and her fourth album doesn't tinker with the recipe. There's no need: Tribal's title track, in fact, alludes to the pleasures of existing outside music's mainstream. In May's hands, rockabilly is a feral form, vitally alive and compelling.
Rockabilly was the predominant matrix from which rock and roll emerged during the ‘50s. The musicians combined contemporary rhythm and blues with country and western and pop, to create an electrifying new sound. Black artists like Chuck Berry and white ones such as Elvis Presley were considered dangerous by the arbiters of taste because their music carried the onus of race-mixing.
Imelda May's fourth studio album, 2014's Tribal, finds the Irish chanteuse balancing an '80s-influenced new wave rockabilly energy with a few of old-school '50s ballads and a bit of country twang. Produced by Mike Crossey, who previously helmed projects by Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg, and others, Tribal features all of the elements that have made May such a breakthrough artist since her 2003 debut, No Turning Back. Here we get her bright, puckered vocal attack showcased on a bevy of instantly infectious cuts.
Unashamedly anachronistic, Ireland's rockabilly queen lets her fourth album pick up where her breakthrough third album, Mayhem, left off in 2010. Or, if you prefer, where Eddie Cochran left off half a century earlier. Aside from a passing reference to eBay on Round the Bend, (and perhaps the novelty of a woman singing this sort of material) there's little here that would surprise a 1960 rock'n'roller.
Stand back: There’s a new queen of sass in town. Imelda May has built her audience gradually, helped by a tour with Jeff Beck and a performance with him at the Grammys, but she’s ready to bust out on her own now. This album debuted at No. 1 in her native Ireland, and it has the muscle to catch on here.
Welcome to the music industry’s Super Tuesday. Today marks the start of the fall rush, when record companies open the floodgates, setting a pace of releases that won't cease until the last leaves drop. This year’s crop offers a veritable autumnal cornucopia, including Lady Gaga’s tete-a-tete ….