Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings Review


DJ Caterina left a review of Tommy Conwell and the Little King's Hi-Ho-Silver! on iTunes:

“Kings' Sophomore Release - Good to Great..."
The liner notes on the Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings sophomore release Hi-Ho-Silver! ends with a statement of gratitude to all the artists "who showed us how great a band can be and gave us good stuff to steal."
But there's really no 'stealing' going on in any of these covers -- just some great interpretations of some rock, jazz and blues classics. Hi-Ho-Silver! is a tribute to the many styles of music that have influenced the Little King's leader, Tommy Conwell, since his 80's hey-day with the Young Rumblers, right up to Hi-Ho-Silver!
The CD title takes its name from a line in "Honey Hush," a cover of Big Joe Turner’s 1953 #1 hit that spent eight weeks at the top of the R+B charts. Turner’s 1987 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Induction cites him as “among the first to mix R+B with boogie-woogie, resulting in jump blues - a style that presaged the birth of rock and roll.” It's no wonder that Conwell makes this song his rollicking own.

Conwell kicks off H-H-S with a cover of Don Covay’s “Bip Bop Bip,” a true homage to the original, and a reflection of Conwell’s deep musical roots. “Roll With Me, Honey” pays tribute to a version by Etta James -- except she sang, "Roll with Me, Henry -- and “Sonnymoon For Two” is a Sonny Rollins cover. The one Conwell-written track, "Smarty Pants," is a well-crafted guitar rock-blues jam that sits well with the rest of the tracks.

Conwell’s version of Joan Jett and the BlackHearts “Make Believe” is more feminine and sweet at the chorus than the BlackHeart’s comparatively masculine original from their 1981 debut album. This same sense of fun resonates throughout the CD, including on a cover of The Queers’ “Punk Rock Girls.”

"Without Love (There Is Nothing)" -- an Elvis Presley gospel hymn -- is re-imagined into the more powerful "Without Love (I Am Nothing)." With only Conwell's vocal and an acoustic guitar, the result is spare and memorable. Some might say the song is misplaced in this compilation, but to the Conwell faithful, it is a resounding reminder of his talent and musical gifts.

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