|Review: ‘BADGER, MIKE & THE SHADY TRIO’
‘Honky Tonk Angels On Motorbikes’
– Label: ‘Self Released’
|In ‘The Rhythm & The Tide’, his must-read memoir co-written with Whisperin’ & Hollerin”s very own Tim Peacock, Mike Badger muses at one point: “I was again staggered to think that I’d survived in the music ‘industry’ in one form or other for twenty years without a manager or even a regular record label in the traditional sense of either term”.
Staggered he may be, but when push comes to shove Badger plainly has no regrets about trusting his gut instincts rather than pursuing a conventional career path.
The Shady trio, a band he formed in 2010, are a perfect vehicle for his continuing go with the flow work ethic. Barry Southern (guitar), Chris Marshall (double bass) and Ian Lane (drums) are happy to accompany him as he ventures into the un-trendy genre of Rockabilly / Country Swing.
In The Has Been, the one obviously autobiographical tune of this album, Badger reminisces about the ups and downs of his life in music with the self deprecating but upbeat refrain : “I’m not so much of a has been as a still might well be”.
His lyrics here are also, in part, an up yours to the blinkered attitudes the music ‘industry’: “I don’t need no small-minded corporate record label scout to tell me how to write a song or what to sing about”.
Despite the thinly veiled frustration behind such words, Badger is not bitter or angry. On the contrary, he channels his energy into positive emotions and the overriding focus of this album is on tongue-in-cheek humour.
Needless to say, this fab foursome are not unduly preoccupied with slick production values or producing chart-bound sounds. Rather, they adopt an authentically primitive approach to their brand of old time Rock’n’Roll with elements of music hall vaudeville, skiffle and Nashville country thrown in for good measure.
The album opens with Miss Jones, dedicated to the widow of country music icon George Jones, and ends with The County’s First Psychedelic Cowboy, an hilarious tall tale of a Redneck who winds up embracing a hippy lifestyle after his beer is spiked with LSD.
The affection for American music and culture is evident in such tunes and is also a feature of the homages to Elvis in tracks like 27 Miles To Memphis and Rockabilly Filly.
On top of that, we also briefly enter the world of widescreen westerns for Adios Amigo (Go With God), the story of a Mexican drug runner risking life and limb to meet the harsh laws of supply and demand yet still hoping to return home with a Mariachi band.
The call of Americana is strong but Badger’s scouse roots are not entirely forgotten. He brings it all back home for Ghost Driver ,inspired by a trip over the Pennines, and Mean And Nasty Devil which was written after returning from Texas.
There’s also space for some reflective tunes like For Who I Am, a tender plea for understanding and No Sense In Crying About The Rain which recommends looking for the silver lining when things turn out badly.
Overall, an infectious good time mood shines through so brightly that only the most cold-hearted or tone-deaf listeners will fail to be seduced by the whole nostalgia trip.
Badger proves once again that he is one of the UK’s great survivors. In the words of the album’s penultimate track, You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down.
|author: Martin Raybould|