The foundations for the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls were laid when members of various bands from the Twin Cities came together on various jam sessions. The band's name was chosen to reflect their preferences for rockabilly and Louisiana music (and food!), and at least some of this is evident on "Rhythm Disease" their debut CD for Narnian.
"Rhythm Disease" opens with a boogie ("Red Hot Boogie Woogie") that almost pitches the band squarely into Canned Heat territory. It has a very twangy guitar, however, and the great muddy vocals carry just the right amount of menace. The dark brooding side of the band resurfaces in a few places, most notably on the swamp infused "Bad Luck Streak." If you are wondering about the rockabilly influence, however, then you need look no further than the cover version of "Lights Out."
Just in case anyone thinks the band are all rockabilly and swamps, it is worth pointing out that the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls also have a mellow streak. "She Don't Want You" with its swirling organ is almost pop, and "The Last Thing On My Mind" could easily have been written by John Hiatt. The band even go country on "Hurricane Rag," where the only thing missing seems to be some fiddle playing.
Two tracks in particular stand out on "Rhythm Disease" and they are both hard to get out of your head. The excellent "Woman Trouble" shows the band at their very best. A relatively simple tune, it calls to mind some of the better moments of the Stray Cats (anyone remember them?). It scores big bonus points for managing to reference Anthony and Cleopatra and Elvis in the same song. The other cracking track is the closer, "BAM (Dickeman's Theme)." It is a short slice of raucous noisy trashy fun, dedicated to Larry (The Dickeman) Wallis, that sounds like Link Wray could have written it.
"Rhythm Disease" offers something a bit musically different for those with an open mind. The spirit of the band is firmly rooted at the point where blues transformed itself into rock and roll. Their sound is like the sort of thing you would get if the Stray Cats had collided with the Cramps. Good stuff.
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This review is copyright © 2002 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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