Review of Hey Negrita's album Burn The Whole Place Down released through Fat Fox Records
Hey Negrita, if you were at all curious, is not the working title once used by Elton John for his 1985 classic cold war love story. (Instead he eventually settled for a slightly more Eastern European slant and went with the opening, Hey Nikita! (My apologies)). Hey Negrita are in fact named after a track on the 1976 Rolling Stones album, 'Black & Blue' and apparently the name means 'Little black girl!" Now you know.
So, how does an English Country Blues band come to be playing Country fare in a stripped down, acoustic, 'Unplugged' and back to basics style? Well, after 3 previous studio albums, 'We Are Catfish', 'The Buzz Above' and 2008's 'You Can Kick' they decided it was time to peel back all their overdubs, layering and engineered niceties that are usually associated with album production and just get the guys "sat round in a circle" and re-record some of their previous tracks plus a completely new one! Having "always been a fan of Rootsy and Country tinged elements of what the The Rolling Stones had played around with" lead singer, and founding member, Felix Bechtolsheimer set about creating his own campfire moments. Being a fan of Johnny Cash and Steve Earl may also have helped him on his quest, as may his time spent in Southern Florida with cowboy junkies and Ray Charles backing singers! Having embraced the music of the Deep South as well as the Midwest is it any wonder that Hey Negrita have a found favour in America?
The new track on the album, 'Burn The Whole Place Down' is also its very promising opener. This is toe tappin', barn dance, hooch swillin', coffee and grits, chewin' tobacco infused Americana, made in Britain or not. If you can accept the that the guy you see occasionally walking around your local Tesco's in his Stetson and holster does it out of love and joy, and not because he's forgotten to get changed after last nights 'Cowboys & Indians' themed fancy dress party then you'll be on save ground here. Rather like Kirsty McColl's fantastically observed gem, "There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis", if you were born to do it, then why fight it?
With amps switched off, drums paired down and a five hour time limit on recording this album it may be somewhat removed from Hey Negrita's normally slightly more raucous offerings. The accordions, harmonicas and fiddles are all out to help create a carnival atmosphere that even the Ole Opry would be swinging along to. 'One Mississippi' keeps you rooted in the delta with it's guitar picking and brushed snare drum tale of "drinking blues" afflicted doubt. 'Cold' has a gumbo laced Cajun vibe that'll keep your imagination floating along through the swamplands whilst the Devil never quite goes down to Georgia on 'Rope' he does at least make a creditable start on his journey. 'Nine To Five' keeps up the pace as it dishes it's disparaging remarks.....
"I love your tiger smile,
The way you crumble like a child,
Walk away from here like I'm no one,
You can't even torture me inside this empty bed,
You know I'm better off than dead when you come crawling through my head,
And I do nothin' nine to five,
But I'm glad to be alive,
You're the only thing that brings me down."
There are some duller moments to the fill the gaps between the dungaree and straw strewn hillbilly highlights but these are in the minority. On the whole the album carries on down it's fifties freight train tracks with an evident enthusiasm for the music that has been so lovingly crafted. It is indeed as portrayed, 'A Real Live Acoustic Smoke Out'. Hey Negrita have a new album due out in 2010 that promises much of an ever evolving band and a blossoming singer-songwriter in Felix. With a slight rasp in his voice and an entertaining spring in their step Hey Negrita are certainly worth a listen.