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Refugee, with its earthy, spontaneous feel and honest, frill-free mix might have been recorded on a single primitive mic at a Saturday night rave-up in a Mississippi turpentine plant. It’s all but forgotten, amid contemporary string-bending pentatonic frenzies, that original live blues was non-rigid in structure, did not need to fit the three-minute demand of radio, and was played to allow the South’s downtrodden poor momentary respite from drudgery and slavery in dancing and the almost-inevitable consequential activities of such close, sweaty bodily contact and hip-shaking rhythms.

Whilst familiar blues and country structures - less frequently - predominate, Vicky Martin's vocal delivery is defiantly and pleasingly English. Inventive instrument tunings combine with off-kilter world music melodies and licks to nudge the contents of Refugee beyond its undeniable Delta roots. A run-down of the contents, however - ‘Devil Calling Out My Name’, ‘Hellbound’, ‘Rising Sun’ (yes, that one, but with a welcome fresh Ladies’ feel) and ‘Devil On The Street’ - is a sure indicator that downhome blues is a significant influence.

Bubbling Louisiana swamp rhythms are drawn variously from scrubbed and damped guitars and guest Danny Bryan's diverse armoury of percussion tools, with piano, blues harp, fiddles, steel guitars and accordion adding necessary, but sparing colour.

There’s a bit of diversity too. Dee Stone’s own ‘Sometimes The End Is Not The End’ is a forlorn country ballad, beautifully arranged for her own piano accompaniment but devoid of obvious studio trickery, Stone’s vocal heavy with authentic hurt. ‘More Trouble’ is a brighter blues with accordion and steel promptings and a country-tinged and structured refrain.

The spacious ‘Paranoia’ broods and menaces, creating an atmosphere fitting of the title and whilst it follows a traditional blues pattern, splendid interplay between Stone's piano and Mathieu Werchowski’s fiddle draws on influences way beyond the cottonfields or Appalachians.

Date added: Apr 09, 2015

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