Review of Smoking In Heaven Album by Kitty Daisy & Lewis

Smoking In Heaven, the Durham family trio's latest full-length effort, opens with rhythmic military, rolling snare and then kicks into a laid back funky reggae meets Latin jazz groove from a typical jazz combo trio of drums, double bass and guitar which flanks meandering trumpet before female vocals join the blend. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis' sound is laid back, retro sounding and presented through lo-fi, authentic recordings made with '40's and '50's equipment and no computers or digital equipment of any kind; the albums' opening track, 'Tomorrow', later breaks into a Chuck Berry-like bluesy guitar solo which all the more authenticates their sound from the off. 'Will I Ever' then maintains the rockabilly blues feel of the likes of Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry with guitar chords over a walking bass line and gentle brushed shuffle drums and simple songwriting that harks right back to the 'fifties.

'Baby Don't You Know' remains a gentle affair with sultry, bluesy vocals swooping and swooning over a backing of acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass and brushed drums; admittedly though, a disappointingly monotonous backing. About half way through, the track then kicks upbeat with a driving bass line and more forceful drums, but unfortunately remains bland with the same vocal line repeated over the same constant harmony and only instrumental solos (Hammond/guitar) later in the track gearing any suggestion of variety other than the singular change of pace. The structures of most of the tracks on Smoking In Heaven are simple and blues based, with lyrics traditional sounding and speaking of love and loss; 'I'm Going Back', for example, is a toe-tapping number based around the simple 12-bar blues and is complete with a real feeling of rock & roll authenticism with clapping and a cheesy jazz ending.

Kitty Daisy & Lewis Smoking In Heaven Album

Later, 'Paan Man Boogie' is led by rough around the edges, Jools Holland-esque boogie woogie blues piano jamming, flanked by walking bass, noodling blues guitar and shuffle drums. The track passes around the solos, including to the double bass, but all remain simple and predictable, boring even; the bass simply walks the solo. Following a brief interjection of funkier R&B in 'Messing With My Life', 'What Quid?' really does epitomise musical boredom. Harsh words but the trio jam a single chord for not thirty seconds, not a minute, but nearly eight minutes leaving the listener in utter disbelief that such a lazy vamp whose only variation is in texture is included on the album. 'I'm So Sorry' ironically attempts to overhaul the monotony with the return of the reggae groove of the opening track, off beat chords and brass backings and later offering a growled trumpet solo and hints of cowbell. Unfortunately, however, this breath of air is only brief and through the harmonica-laden 'You'll Be Sorry' and the gentle, laid-back, country blues number, 'I'm Coming Home', Smoking In Heaven comes to a disappointingly indifferent close.

The Kitty, Daisy & Lewis blend is inoffensive, foot-tapping and authentically harks back to the era of rock & roll in its' prime, but is undoubtedly just a bit bland.

Hannah Spencer

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