Monday, May 30, 2016

Scarlet & the Harlots. We Can't Seem to Get Enough.

Scarlet & the Harlots. We Can’t Seem to Get Enough.
Self-produced, 2014.  Scarlet & the Harlots:

This album is a bit old for review, but since the band hasn’t put out a new one yet we can still call it their fresh debut. I’m too old to know where the boundary line between nerd and hipster is these days (it shifts year by year), but this band from the Kent area lies somewhere in that territory, and that is intended to be a compliment. The cover suggests a parody of an old Leon Russell & the Shelter People album--a curious assortment of gender-bending  and overdressed characters indulging themselves with food, drink, and drugs. A carnival is in town and they’ve taken over an Italian restaurant. One might think they’re trying too hard to impress with their decadence.

No batch of amateurs though, these folks know their stuff, with real horn charts backing the strong, bluesy vocals of their lead singer, Scarlet (no last names, please). The mix of rock, jazz, and blues is sophisticated, with some really great singing and playing. The sound is a bit retro, once again bringing to mind Russell and his crowd, as some of the music has a distinct and eclectic early 70s flavor. The songs are uniformly enjoyable, yet in no way uniform. Each takes a different approach. For example, “Moonshine Ghost” featuring Scarlet’s vocals upfront, a great mix of Janis Joplin and Bonnie Bramlett, with a blistering guitar solo that’s hard to beat. “There Once Was a Girl” takes a jazzier approach, with some cool vocal runs (and clever lyrics) recalling Manhattan Transfer, and sweet sax breaks. The title track gets a bit funky, but combines that with some boogie. “We Are in Control” lets the drummer out, and the sound gets more Blood, Sweat & Tears (or even Ten Wheel Drive, for the obscure sophisticate), with the horns vying for domination with the percussion. The band gets heavier with “What to Do,” with a monster beat and all the musicians driving forward hard. This one’s my favorite, a real headbanger. They close with a slower tune, but hardly a wistful ballad, with an insistent, familiar refrain that I can’t quite place.

This is a fine start for a fine band. They have plenty of talent and skill, and a style that will appeal to several generations of rock fans. Their next appearance will be at Beachland on June 4th for the Prince Tribute Night. No telling what they might cover, but it ought to be quite a show.

Personnel:  Scarlet (vocals), Trevor (guitar, alto saxophone), Ryan (guitar), Toussaint (bass, vocals), Chris (trombone, vocals), Tim (tenor saxophone), Dylan (drums).
Tracks:  Moonshine Ghost, There Once Was a Girl, We Can’t Seem to Get Enough, We Are in Control, What to Do, Follow.

Jeff Wanser