Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
With the clacking of drum sticks, "one-two-three-four" count off and the echoey rockabilly voice of Irish singer Imelda May taking over with authority, "Tribal" hits the nail on the head. No wonder she sings "I hold my head up proud." She sure does with a punky, early rock and rockabilly sound. There aren't a lot of female rockabilly singers out there these days. Actually, there aren't all that many rockabilly singers out there period who are able to release music to reach the masses. But May is doing her darndest to change all that, she has a big winner on her third U.S. release.
She tackles subject matters that you'd expect out of a rowdy genre. "Wild Woman," the bouncy "Hellfire Club" about a Dublin-area club and "WIcked Way" - set the table just from their names. But, fortunately, there's way more to the songs than a title.
May, who co-produced with Mike Crossey, has a lively, voice that is not a one-trick rockabilly pony. She tones it down on several songs, and with a pleasant sounding voice (in addition to the snarl), May is not trying to be all things to all people. She turns bluesy on the quieter "Gypsy In Me" where her voice carries the song with a stinging guitar solo adding a bit of bite. She softens it up on the pleasant "Little Pixie" with acoustic guitar, upright bass and a bit of electric guitar in the background.
May and Crossey were not afraid to take chances. The moody ""Wicked Way" is punctuated throughout by trumpet. "Round the Bend" recalls The Ramones, but May puts her own stamp on it.
May converts the catchy, but initially downbeat "It's Good to Be Alive" into an optimistic jaunt. May intones, "Holding on to time gone by clinging to a song/To pull me through with every word/Rock me with a tune."
May is a rarity these days, and a most welcome one at that. When you end an amount of the revved up "Right Amount of Wrong" with May inveighing her scowl and howl into it, truer words were never spoken.