Ever have those days where you simply cannot get a song out of your head? Yeah, me, too. When I become a huge fan of an artist and album, sometimes I just listen to the thing on repeat. Aural Fixation is a blog feature where I will talk, ramble, express my love for, and otherwise babble on about musical artists I am a huge fan of, whose albums I can put on repeat and never tire of, who pick me up when I’m down, who complement my various moods, and who will remain staples in my extremely varied and sometimes obscure music diet.
Recently, I went to a concert at the 9:30 Club here in the District of Columbia. A good friend bought me a ticket to see Jamie Cullum, who is a great modern jazz artist. I had a blast at the concert and enjoyed him thoroughly, but was pleasantly surprised by his opening act, Imelda May.
This Irish beauty, who has a thick Dublin accent, plays her own music, as well as covers of classic rockabilly tunes. She invokes Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash, but her sultry voice has a jazz quality which is reminiscent of Katharine Whalen of Squirrel Nut Zippers and a hint of edgy, gothic post-punk singer Karen O. of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Imelda May is a force to be reckoned with on stage, she sings with tempered power, grit, and cheeky quirk and backs herself up with the bodhrán and tambourine. Her husband, Darrell Hingham, plays guitar in her band. She is also accompanied by Al Gare on the double bass and bass guitar, Steve Rushton on drums, and Dave Priseman on trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion and guitar. It’s the kind of rockabilly that makes you want to dance no matter how tired your feet are or how late the night gets (and it’s the kind of music that’s extremely easy to dance to, so even if you have two left feet, you’re compelled to keep them moving all the same).
The combination of styles is what makes Imelda May and her band anything but boring. Without being too over-the-top, her best-known album, Love Tattoo, includes jazz, rockabilly, swing, and bluesy-rock. She sites Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran as influences and previously fronted a Dublin-based band called the Liberties, doing “rockabilly rave-ups”. Through a combination of styles and a varied and uncommon history, Imelda May puts forth her own music with a confidence of having found exactly where she belongs in the music business and the world, a refreshing treat for anyone who enjoys the organic sounds of guitars, piano, trumpet, double-bass, percussion, and powerful, smoky vocalists.