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Scrappy Hamilton
Scrappy Hamilton: At Rock Bottom


Red Peters Meets Big Boy Bloater
The Deacon Moves In


Listening to Scrappy Hamilton and Red Peters Meets Big Boy Bloater in succession, I began to think about the nature of contemporary music that uses traditional American musical forms. Perhaps it is unfair to compare these two discs, given that they are similar only insofar as they both fall under the rubric or "retro music." Yet, as different as these two discs are, they somehow became linked in my mind. Perhaps it's cultural: Scrappy hamilton hail from North Carolina; Red Peters and Big Boy Bloater are a product of England's retro scene. Do Americans feel more at liberty to throw their heritage into a blender and see what they can produce, while Europeans more faithfully adhere to the recipe established many years ago? there's an interesting thesis in there somewhere.

Scrappy Hamilton's debut, At Rock Bottom (Papa-Roux), is easily the more interesting upon repeated listening: an appealing mix of New Orleans jazz, ragtime, and lounge, with a decidedly Beat, stream-of-consciousness lyrical approach. In mining the same territory as Big Rude Jake and fellow North Carolinians Squirrel Nut Zippers, Scrappy Hamilton never feel as if they wished they belonged in a different era. But unlike these trailblazers, Scrappy never achieve the joyous cacophony the Zippers pull off so effortlessly, and fall far short of Jake's musical adventurousness and twisted sense of humor. But the musicians are all excellent, and the band is tight and clean. The main drawback is the sameness to the vocals throughout the disc. Singer Scott Kinnebrew's thin, raspy voice lacks depth and range, wearing out its welcome well before halfway through the album, leaving the most enduring song on the record the instrumental.

Whereas Scrappy Hamilton never feel as though they would be uncomfortable on stage in T-shirts and tennis shoes, Red Peters and Big Boy BLoater are all vintage clothes and vinyl. They adhere to the jump blues formula as if there has been no music since. Their new release, The Deacon Moves In (Spindrift) will definitely appeal to dancers. But coincidentally, the record suffers from the same problem as Scrappy Hamilton's: uninteresting vocals. There's no doubt that Red peters has an impressive set of pipes, and she is the perfect counterpoint to Big Boy Bloater's flat, bluesy growl. But she is almost too perfect, lacking the grit and vocal personality that make Lavay Smith and Ingrid Lucia of the Flying Neutrinos so enduring. And while at only six songs the disc is over before it wears thin, again the catchiest songs on the record are the instrumentals.

–Christian Puffer



Year 1999 Reviews
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B.B. King—Let The Good Times Roll
Bellevue Cadillac—Take Out Out Takes
The Blue Dahlia—The Blue Dahlia
Bryan Ferry—As Time Goes By
Candye Kane—The Toughest Girl Alive
City Rhythm—Strikes Again
Dave's True Story—Unauthorized
Dmitri Resnik—It Ain't Rocket Science
Duke Ellington—The Essential Collection
Ernie Krivda—The Band That Swings
Etta James—The Chess Box
Fat Daddy Pussycat—Swing 2000
Flying Neutrinos—Hotel Child
George Gee & The Jump Jive and Wailers—Buddha Boogie
Hollywood Swing & Jazz
Hula Joe & The Hutjumpers—
Hula Joe & The Hutjumpers
Jimmy Nations Combo—Tarheel Boogie
Jimmy Vargas—The Tease, The Torch...
Josh Max's Outfit—Make It Snappy
Keely Smith—Swing Swing Swing
Kim Lenz—The One and Only
Midnight Cool—Jazz Classics Collection
Mora's Modern Rhythmists—
Call of the Freaks
Nat King Cole—Golden Years 1943-1946
The Original Band—
Still Rockin' Around The Clock
Peggy Cone—Bad Girl Shoes
Quinn Lemley—Dance or Die!
Red & The Red Hots—Gettin' Around
Red Peters—The Deacon Moves In
Sammy Davis Jr.—Sammy & Friends
Scrappy Hamilton—At Rock Bottom
Tom Maxwell—Samsara
The Slingshots—Feels So Right
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