boz

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Boz Boorer and Steve Hooker (leather trousers, quiff) have a long history together. They first joined forces for Boz & The Bozmen - when Boz was asked to perform at a festival and not having a band at that time, randomly mentioned the bandname. He then had to hastily assemble some musicians he knew, and Boz & The Bozmen were born.

Over the years, Boz 'n' Steve have collaborated on some of each other's work. Stagger Lee is Back is the third of Steve's albums that Boz has appeared on. He played acoustic guitar on four tracks on 2001's Don't Try To Understand 'Em, and provided acoustic and backing vocals on one track from Steve's 2004 album, Boptown. Boz appears on two tracks on Steve's lastest outing, lending his trademark steady rhythm on acoustic in "Black Train White City", and percussion on "Swamp Trick" (which comes complete with croaking frogs for that Deep South swamp feel). Bear in mind that these tracks were recorded in summer 2006, and it becomes clear that Boz thrives on being as busy as possible - on a brief break from touring with Morrissey, instead of nipping off to his swanky pad in Portugal or loafing about in his garden retouching his novelty gnomes, Boz popped over to Southend to lay down these tracks with Steve. God bless ya, Big B!

Even if Boz wasn't on this album, I'd still tell you all to listen to it anyway. That is, if you like a chunk of deep-fried, hip-swaying rock'n'roll with a side helping of slinky blues and sleazy r'n'b, and a dollop of scorching soul, served up in a backwoods diner by a slightly vampiric waitress (that's not tomato sauce in the bottle on your table, and the driver of the Cadillac parked outside hasn't been seen for a few days...). Steve Hooker's music is always a treat because he refuses to keep within the arbitrary boundaries of musical genres. Try to fence him in, and he'll slap you. Hard.

The album kicks off with a swampy blues guitar instrumental which sounds like it was recorded in a wooden shack in Louisiana, and leads into "Black Train White City", where Boz's acoustic guitar helps to drive the song along. "Candyman" references the legend of Stagger Lee, after whom the album is named. "Devil or Angel" is downright sinister. In fact, there is a dark seam that runs through a lot of Steve Hooker's work - because while there's a merry jazz band piping your coffin to its grave in New Orleans, behind closed doors there's a voodoo priestess dancing with Lucifer. "Bloodline" was inspired by the idea of Jesus' descendents - not the crappy Da Vinci Code version, but the original writers who peered into the darker corners of Christianity and Gnosticism. "Bloodline" also features soulful backing vocals by one Bridget Metcalfe, which makes the track truly spine-tingling.

There's a couple of well-chosen covers - "Girl That Radiates Charm" and "Red Blue Jeans & A Pony Tail", which fellow leather-trousered Gene Vincent performed, but it's the tracks written by Steve himself which really propel this album and make it unique. So many rockabilly acts are really cover-version bands, and Steve evades the cliche and does something original and wholly his own.

Steve Hooker has a talent for writing with his soul, rather than sitting about pondering key changes in a chin-stroking fashion. And he plays from his soul, too. With a vast back catalogue of excellent tracks, and a constant gigging schedule, Steve Hooker is a musician and performer not to be missed. ~Review by Helen

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