The James Oliver Band – Twang: Album Review

Twang by The James Oliver Band is a set of eleven no-nonsense, good, honest, back-to-roots rockers, played with passion and great good humour.

Release Date: 17th July 2020

Label: The Last Music Co

Formats: CD / DL

Only recently, I was privileged to be handed Surrender To The Rhythm, a compilation album celebrating the London Pub Rock scene of the 1970s to review.  I was able to revel in the uncomplicated yet adept nature of the music that was around during that period and in my review, I lamented the passing of this simple, entertaining approach to music. 

Well; it seems that my fears were unjustified, if this electrifying collection from ex-Glas guitar maestro, James Oliver is anything to go by.  The appropriately-named Twang is an excellent piece of work. Eleven no-nonsense, good, honest, back-to-roots rockers, played with passion and great good humour and the band’s clear enjoyment in playing these blistering rockers is infectious.

The band’s influences are clearly evident throughout the album. Close your eyes and Wilko-era Dr Feelgood, Chuck Berry, Hank Marvin, Elmore James and Albert Lee all make their presence felt.  The album is a fantastic sample of what James and his band are all about. It’s clear that the songs have been heavily road-tested and as a collection, it’s a fantastic advert for the band’s live act. You can almost taste the sweat!

It’s also worth mentioning the good humour in the lyrics that are a particular feature of James’s songs.  Opener American Cars, a Chuck Berry-style rocker that gets the album off to a pulsating start, bemoans the rarity of the Cadillacs and Chevrolets that feature so frequently in 50s Rock and Roll songs and refers instead to VW Polos, Subarus and the like. Mean Little Mama, a song from James’s mate Rob Davies, contains the wonderful line “Mean little Mama, If I don’t behave, she’s gonna hit me with a hammer.”

The Dr Feelgood influence shines through particularly in She Was The One, a song with driving drums, honking harp and choppy guitar that had me reaching for my Stupidity album.  Elmore James haunts the grooves of Big Joe Turner’s TV Mama, whilst James demonstrates his Hank Marvin virtuosity on instrumental showcase The Missing Link.  A second Big Joe Turner number, Honey Hush is loud and dirty and Outside Help, the longest track on the album (albeit at only 4.31), gives James all the space he needs to show off his guitar pyrotechnics to their stunning best effect.

Elsewhere on the album, there’s an excellent take on Dick Dale’s version of the traditional Misirlou and Stay Out Of Trouble is a Cajun-sounding piece with some tasty accordion flourishes from keyboardist Billy Lee Williams. More sparks from James’s guitar with some wonderful lyrics and the rockabilly flavoured Upside Down Song has lyrics so appropriate to our current state of lockdown, with lines like “I’m bouncing off the walls” and “My whole world is upside down” and ends with a guitar flourish worthy of Albert Lee himself.

Many of the numbers provide a platform for James to let loose on the guitar fretboard and credit should be given to the band’s rhythm section, Darren Beale on Bass and Shane Dixon on Drums who provide that platform. They’re always there for James to return to after his excursions into space!

A fantastic way of passing 33 minutes – give it a listen!

Listen to TV Mama here:

The James Oliver band online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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