Jools Holland & His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra return with their latest collection Moving Out To The Country. As you might expect from the title this is something of a shift in direction for the act that is more famed for its contemporary take on boogie woogie. Armed to the teeth with a host of guest stars that includes the likes of K.T Tunstall, Lulu, Richard Hawley, Tom Jones and Bob Geldof to name but a few. There’s always a seal of quality on Holland’s collections that in terms of musicianship you’ve come to expect.
It doesn’t fall short in this instance either. The band shift gears and move quite effortlessly into country territory tackling the genre with a polished authenticity that only a love of music and performance would allow. Tunstall’s contribution to Darkness On The Face Of The Earth is rich and earthy and the two acts compliment each other wonderfully. The same can be said of Hawley’s haunting rendition of I’m So Lonely I Could Cry. While Solomon Burke’s slightly rough hewn vocals on Moving Out To The Country are born aloft on a smooth rich backing that is punctuated by Holland’s often playful piano style.
Lulu shows a rootsier side to her vocal style (and for once she isn’t singing Shout) with She’ll Have To Go. Even the traditionally uninspiring voice of Bob Geldof polishes up well enough on a cover of For The Good Times (for some reason he reminds me of Jarvis Cocker on this rendition).
As you may have gathered by now what you are getting for your silver dollar is a collection of standards that may or may not be familiar to the discerning listener. If you’re not necessarily a country fan (and in all honesty I fall into that category) don’t be dissuaded. The quality and skill in these performances elevates this collection above any misgivings you might have about their origins. A shining example being the Brian Eno collaboration of Dreaming My Dreams With You, a bright almost ambient (you don’t say) track that drifts along on tides of wistful slide guitar. Absolutely lovely.
Mark Knopfler shows a suitable restraint with his playing allowing Holland to let loose over the keys for a version of You Win Again while David McAlmont’s version of Misty Blue should be enough to thaw even the hardest of hearts. There’s a slight dip in quality alas with Tom Jones offering I Wish I Was 18 Again, the subject matter might be appropriate now Jones’s better years are behind him. But even though he takes a while to get warmed up its not enough to ruin proceedings.
Louise Marshall rectifies any misgivings Jones introduces with a tear stained cover of Sweet Dreams while Marc Almond shores up a passable gospel tinged version of Games People Play. The likes of Paul Carrack and Ruby Turner add a real soulfulness to the collection, as does Sam Brown (remember her).
As a whole it’s a well rounded well recorded collection of songs. Sure the subject matter when it comes to this genre is hardly the most upbeat of affairs (although Holland does contribute Rocket To The Moon and Boogie Woogie Country Girl to add an uptempo flavour to proceedings). The majority of the content deals with longing, lost love or relationships that have in some way or another journeyed south. But then again who says a song has to be all sweetness, light and happiness to be good. In this instance this album allows a good introduction to these songs for the unfamiliar and those that know this repertoire should find these reinterpretations more than enough to satisfy.