Blue Moon Marquee- Bare Knuckles & Brawn review

Blue Moon Marquee Bare Knuckles & Brawn

For a band that so freely reaches back into the tradition, be it blues, jazz, freak-folk, swing, or ragtime, Blue Moon Marquee is entirely unique.

Much like and entirely different from Bill & the Belles, I can picture Blue Moon Marquee around a single mic in a cramped, dusty, and isolated rural radio station circa 1928, pounding out songs long into the night. Where Bill & the Belles are light and buoyant, Blue Moon Marquee are dark and considered.

Vocally, A. W. Cardinal (guitar) doesn’t mess around, his David Johansen/Tom Waits growl beyond low and gritty. Recorded to 2-inch tape through vintage RCA mics, Blue Moon Marquee is most interested in realising a timely sound, authentic to a previous generation. Mission achieved.

The album takes its title from “As I Lay Dying,” one of the more earthy numbers and one of several utilizing Indigenous imagery. The aggressively-voiced “High Noon” is infused with a jumping swing beat: “If you have any last words to spill, now is about time you did.” Similarly, the light romp of “The Red Devil Himself” is at odds with its lyrical content: “My mind gets so ragged, Ragged like a cedar tree; My heart gets so heavy, like a rock cast into the sea.”

“Smoke Rings For My Rider” is upbeat melodically, its loneliness betrayed in its lyrics: “Where the eagles dare, flies untouched my Belvedere, I can hear that midnight owl.”

Jasmine Colette (bass/drums) takes the occasional and always welcome lead. “52nd Street Strut” and “Hard Times Hit Parade” are highlights of Bare Knuckles & Brawn.

“Big Black Mamba” and “Lost and Wild” bookend the album, two different, equally compelling approaches to loneliness, relational confusion, and desperation.

For good reason Bare Knuckles & Brawn spent much of the summer of the CKUA airplay chart. A fine, memorable album.

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