By Mike O’Cull
Powerhouse Canadian roots and blues duo Blue Moon Marquee continue to spin vintage blues, Django jazz, swing, folk, Indigenous soul, and more into exciting, original music on their new record Scream, Holler & Howl.
Out on their own Blue Moon Marquee Music imprint, the new album continues the Blue Moon Marquee tradition of bringing old school influences together, some a century old, and making brilliant modern blues out of them. They do it in a way that sounds ambitious on paper but makes perfect sense coming out of your speakers. Band members A.W. Cardinal (vocals, guitar) and Jasmine Colette, a.k.a. Badlands Jass (vocals, bass, drums) co-produced the set with roots music legend Duke Robillard, who also appears on guitar.
Cardinal and Colette developed their unique style over nearly a decade of relentless touring throughout Europe and North America. Both are memorable singers and instrumentalists, especially Colette, who rocks the upright bass with her hands and drums with her feet. They’ve mostly worked as a duo since 2013 but have been spotted in trio and quartet formats in the last few years with Darcy Phillips (Jann Arden) on piano and Jerry Cook (Colin James) on tenor and baritone saxophone. On Scream, Holler, & Howl, they are also accompanied by Matt Pease (drums), Paul Pigat (guitar), Bonnie Northgraves (trumpet), and Señor Erik (tambourine).
Blue Moon Marquee makes music for all of us who can imagine the glory of a band made up of Howlin’ Wolf, Tom Waits, Memphis Minnie, Cab Calloway, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Their original songs swing hard but also tell tales of society’s undercarriage and the souls who live there. Cardinal and Colette create a wonderful sound that has won over crowds in clubs, festivals, dive bars, biker joints, and prisons. What they do is real, completely unique, and iconoclastic.
Scream, Holler & Howl sets itself in motion with its title cut “Scream, Holler & Howl.” It’s a smoky, late-night mid-speed blues with a touch of jazz to it that features A.W. Cardinal growling out the vocals and slinging his guitar. The tune immediately clues you in that this isn’t another paint-by-numbers blues crew but a pair of fully-matured artists with a vision of their own.
“Hound Dog On A Chain” puts Colette on the lead vocal mic and she quickly ups the tempo and the get-up-and-dance factor. Her bass lines lock in perfectly with drummer Matt Pease and give Cardinal all the room he needs to heat up his guitar again. They come off like the mind-blowing band you’d expect to hear while walking into a hallucinatory road house in Nowhere, Texas that changes your life in the middle of the night.
Blue Moon Marquee digs into the minor-key swing of “Long Black Train” with a percolating passion. Every player involved locks the pocket down without ever letting it boil over and lose its charm. The shared guitar and saxophone hook is memorable and loaded with soul. Cardinal treats us to more of his graveled-out vocal style and you couldn’t ignore him if you tried.
Duke Robillard busts out his guitar to take part in the chilled-out shuffle “Country Man” and takes us all to school. Robillard has been spreading the jump blues/swing gospel for decades and is exactly the right player and co-producer to interface with Cardinal and Colette. What he brings in terms of taste and style can’t be purchased at any price and he also clearly comprehends the big picture of what Blue Moon Marquee is striving for.
Other album highlights include “My Wild Rose,” “Medicine Man,” and “Red Dust Rising.” Blue Moon Marquee are in top form on Scream, Holler & Howl and show themselves to be one of the top roots music acts working anywhere in the world. Fans looking for something relatable but extraordinary are going to flip over this and how. Time to get hip, friends. Highly recommended.
“Another Night to Cry”
Blue Moon Marquee website