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Atomic Cowboy (ACR004)

Flat-Top Cat, Happy Go Lucky, It Hurts, She’s Long Gone, Sanity, Please Don’t Let Me Love You, Sosban Fach, Living It High, Train Keep A Moving, Sunshine Lady, Six Months Gone, Feeling For You, Money Troubles

A red hot rockabilly album from a trio from south Wales may sound as incongruous as Nigel Farage as President of the European Commission but let’s give credit where credit is due (as the actress said to the bank manager).

For those who have followed our reviews over recent years, you might recall we rapturously reviewed the previous CD by the John Lewis Trio in 2011 and here we are again, full of praise for a true Welshman who sounds and plays as though he grew up next door to Charlie Feathers,

John does not hide his roots, indeed he makes a positive virtue of them. His previous album was titled The Billy Banks Sessions (PT002CD) after a housing estate in Penarth and, this time round, the back cover proudly presents a half-drunk bottle of Penderyn, a brand of Welsh whisky much better than you might imagine. Elsewhere, on It Hurts, one of many highlights herein, John’s lyrics include a reference to how much the rain in Wales hurts.

John has long-been a known quantity among the British rockabilly community as a former member of The Rimshots and he has also played with many touring rockabilly legends and recorded widely alongside Imelda May’s husband and guitarist, Darrel Higham.

On this album, all of John’s talents are once again splendidly utilised on a similar formula to that which worked so well on The Billy Banks Sessions - a distinctive and impressive jumping guitar picking style, a confident and authoritative voice and supporting musicians that would, once upon a time, have found work for Sam Phillips at Sun. And on Train Keep A Moving John’s rollicking piano tour de force suggests there is no end to his talents.

The most notable difference here though is that 11 of the 13 songs on offer are originals, as finely written and compelling as anything to be found on any rock and roll or rockabilly compilation. In fact, John’s crafty and intelligent lyrics, mean they can offer even more. Listen, for example, to Money Troubles, a little bopper that sounds great but is improved by picking up the words of the smart lyrics.

Of the covers, one is Please Don’t Let Me Love You, a lovingly re-crafted Hank Williams demo that sounds so right. The other returns to the band’s Welsh heritage with a heroic instrumental take on the traditional Welsh song Sosban Fach, re-configured here as a showcase for John’s guitar dexterity, moving from the finger-picking style favoured by Merle Travis before turning in a fine Dick Dale-style surf guitar attack to end with.

We said the Billy Banks Sessions was rockabilly as good as anything America has to offer. Correction, this is better!

Review Date: August 2014

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