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A keen love of the music of the deep south drew together three of Melbourne’s top blues artists to form the group Opelousas (taken from the name of a Louisiana town). The band comprises the female powerhouse combo of Kerri Simpson (guitar and lead vocals) and Alison Ferrier (guitar), backed by drummer Anthony Shortte (from Collard Greens and Gravy). Their debut album was co-produced by maestro Jeff Lang, with powerful results.
In opener Maw Maw, the slow menacing tread of swampy rhythms precedes Simpson’s amazingly deep vocals. Words run into each other in a viscous drawl, sometimes morphing into a keening sound, as the music casts its hypnotic spell.
There’s only a light blues touch to the catchy I Never Kissed Her, about an intriguing love triangle. Shortte’s furious tattoo launches the rock edged, foot tapper Dear John, with Simpson drawing out and bending lyrics as only she can. This devotional poem to their favourite musical genre comes complete with references to US folk heroes such as John Brown and John Henry.
Awe of another kind comes across in James Dean, with its outstanding, suck-you-in and swallow-you-up riff, dressed up with random metallic sounds. Simpson’s delivery jumps from a conspiratorial whisper to a scream, ending in breathing sounds.
Meet Me in the Hallway is a gentler, more countrified invitation to romance, while Good Love Bad is a real scream it out, wailing guitar rocker.
Sugar Baby marries swampy guitar with a swinging rhythm, while Ferrier’s perky fiddle really makes Big Old Steam Train something special.
The Opelousas’ debut is blues focused yet carries enough variety to keep it fresh throughout, and is chockablock with rhythms that get right into the bloodstream.