Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Imelda May is a singer who deserves your attention. I first became aware of her via her collaborations with Jeff Beck. They performed together at the 2010 Grammy Awards.  I thought that people may have thought that she wasn't singing live - I believe she was singing over a track of her own voice.  That wasn't because she can't sing "live": they were paying tribute to Les Paul and Mary Ford.  Les pioneered multi-track recording, and would double track Mary's singing on their records. Imelda's performance was a reference to that, which may have gone over people's heads.

Anyway, Imelda is a really good singer, totally influenced by early rockabilly and blues. With that combo and her cool voice and presence, you almost can't go wrong.

I think she's popular in her native Ireland.  Interesting that Ireland has such a great appreciation for these incredible American styles of music (remember The Commitments?). I think Americans may find her a bit too similar to Gwen Stefani, which would be a shame. There definitely are things the ladies have in common, but where I think Gwen sees everything through a '80s new wave lens (no disrespect) Imelda probably goes straight to the source (that said, she does a killer rockabilly cover of "Tainted Love").

Her album is kind of stylized, in the way a White Stripes or Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Stray Cats album is. The instrumentation kind of defines the music (her excellent backing band consists of guitar, upright bass, drums and trumpet).  But like the aforementioned groups, it's not a novelty: the album is good because the songs and the performances are. I don't know that there's a smash single there - and I think a band like this needs one to "break" in America - but I think if enough people are exposed to this record, they'll dig it.   There are a lot of different tones, she's good at rockers ("Mayhem"), mid-tempo tunes ("Bury My Troubles") and ballads ("Kentish Town Waltz").

If I was a music exec at HBO (I think I'd be a good choice for a gig like that!) I'd be figuring out ways to get Imelda and her kick-ass band performing on Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, hell, even Bill Maher's show. Maybe every other show too (other than Game of Thrones).  But don't wait for anyone else to push her music on you: pick up a song or two on iTunes, I think you'll thank me for it!

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