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!
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