Review: Not content with having two Irish No. 1 albums, having become the darling of UK tastemakers such as Jools Holland and having recently played for Barack Obama, Imelda May remains a woman on a mission. Underneath her immaculate retro stylings dwells a steely determination to prove that blues and rockabilly are not dead styles in need of revival but rather they represent living music as relevant today as in the ‘50s. Although she is down-to-Earth enough to record a tune called “Proud and Humble”, her achievements up to now are substantial; unleashing a little more Mayhem can’t do her campaign any harm.
This third barrage was originally released in Ireland and the UK in September and October of last year, respectively, spawning an impressive four singles. As the next targets for Decca’s slow international release schedule of the record, US listeners can expect to enjoy May’s trend of increasing confidence and verve in the context of a broadened sonic palette, expanding to include country rockers and an off-kilter folksy blues number. Whatever the style being played, however, May’s polished and powerful voice is always at the forefront of proceedings, and it’s as compulsively listenable as ever before.
Mayhem represents a significant step forward in the development of a genuine talent. May gels superbly with her experienced band and together, they are becoming confident enough to veer further away from their influences and create a distinctive sound of their own. One of the things which is most exciting about this record, however, is that it leaves the listener with the impression that May’s development is not yet complete and that she has ways to go before the true sum of her powers is brought to life. In the meantime, barring a couple of odd track listing decisions, Mayhem is an essential listen for those who believe, as May does, in the living, breathing powers of rockabilly and the blues.
Tracklist: 1. Pulling the Rug; 2. Psycho; 3. Mayhem; 4. Kentish Town Waltz; 5. All For You; 6. Eternity; 7. Inside Out; 8. Proud and Humble; 9. Sneaky Freak; 10. Bury My Troubles; 11. Too Sad to Cry; 12. I'm Alive; 13. Let Me Out; 14. Tainted Love.