Imelda May: Tribal

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

im tribal

Imelda May
Tribal
(Verve)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

From the tip of her trademarked  blonde spit-curl to the bottom of her black boots, Imelda May exudes a tough, take-no-crap attitude that’s reflected in her gutsy, somewhat retro rockabilly and rugged roots rock. She’s a huge star in her native Ireland (her previous release sold platinum there and this one debuted #1 on their charts) but not surprisingly, the American music she clearly loves hasn’t been embraced by stateside listeners, at least not yet.

Perhaps this red hot fireball set will change that. Kicking off with the crackling title track that sounds like a mashup of Bow Wow Wow and the Stray Cats, May and her band blast through 40 some minutes of tough no nonsense rootsy rocking. Take a splash of Wanda Jackson, add some of Rev. Horton Heat punkabilly and you’ve got an explosive formula to get your party hopping for the hippest of cats and kitties.

Songs such as “Five Good Men,” “Wild Woman,” “Hellfire Club,” “I Wanna Dance,” and “Right Amount of Wrong” blast out like a machine gun of reverb guitars and rat-ta-tat-tat drumming led by May’s overdriven sassy purr of a voice. In a more just world she might have a hit with the more reserved sing-along chorus and pop approach of “It’s Good To Be Alive” and the countryish ballad “Little Pixie” which dials down the energy momentarily while staying true to her influences.

Now on her third album, she’s nowhere close to selling out just to cross over to a more mainstream audience and bless her for that. Maybe Tribal and a more extensive 2014 US tour will break her in the States, but regardless, this a powerful, uncompromising release and one that doubles down on her established style while pulling no punches.

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