reviewer: Chris Lambie - fortemag - Mar 10, 2014
Reviewers risk sounding like broken records when talking about Kerri Simpson. It's just that the Melbourne-based singer is so bloody good at what she does, we want everyone to know. She's one-of-a-kind. She's paid her dues – with interest. She's worked with virtually every artist of note from the local blues and roots scene. Here she's backed by a selection of long-time mates in music, including Belmar studios producer Steve Purcell.
This third release in her 'Knockin' at the Backdoor' series follows Maybe My Midnight and Fortune Favoured Me. There's a distinct blues bent gracing the smoky late night mood here, with all nine tracks Simpson originals. The production is gloriously lo-fi and it's easy to imagine our 'Queen of the Blues' laying down tracks at Stax or Chess in another era. No rehearsals were required for this experienced combo. When Simpson sits in on a late night session in New Orleans, this is what you might hear.
The title track strolls in with a sultry swagger; Shannon Bourne's sassy guitar barely restrained. 'Sam Pine' swings with a retro funk groove while Simpson has some fun at the mic. 'Twanging a New Tune' gets fingers snapping and hips swaying. Opening horns tantalise ahead of the queen's assured crooning. Next, a N'awlins shuffle with Andrew Ogburn's juke joint piano sees her happily kick a troublesome man to the kerb.
Balancing the jubilation, Simpson shows how heart-achingly sweet a soulful slow-burner can be with 'Come on Babe'. Dean Hilson's silky sax walks right beside her. With lyrics assembled in the studio, you believe the stories. You feel those blues. She tells us that "I work 'til my soul is crying", yet assures us on 'All My Tomorrows' that 'til the day her story is told, she'll "still be standing proud and tall". No doubt. Another favourite for my collection.
reviewer: BRIAN WISE - Rhythms - Album of the month DECEMBER 2013
Kerri Simpson falls into that ever- burgeoning category of indepen- dent musicians in Australia who have earned the respect of their peers, have kept producing excellent record- ings but, through the vagaries of the modern music industry, seem unable to reach a wider audience. One of Simp- son's triumphs is that after more than twenty years she is still putting out quality albums like this new one.
Simpson's previous album, Fortune Favoured Me, released in 2012, was a great collection of original songs penned by Simpson as well as in collaboration with Jeff Lang, Geoff Achison, Shannon Bourne. There were also some well-cho- sen covers of songs from Stephen Cum- mings, Charles Jenkins and Cyndi Boste (who has her own terrific new album out at the moment). It is worth searching out if you missed it at the time. Perhaps the new album, 4AM, will inspire that search, but it is very different musical beast.
4AM is pitched firmly at a blues audience, which is possibly a good thing because it should at least create a lot of interest in that community and, by rights, get Simp- son booked on the bill at blues and roots festival around the country (Hint!).
The album comprises nine original songs written by Simpson, who shows that she is no slouch as a writer of blues and R&B oriented material. In fact, her blues cre- dentials are considerable and her album Confessin' The Blues was nominated for an ARIA, after which some writers
dubbed her Australia's Queen of The Blues. Simpson has lived in New Orleans and remains one of the few Australians to appear at Jazz Fest. It would hardly be surprising if quite a few other acts covered the songs on 4AM. It would be even better if someone like Bonnie Raitt picked up on it, but that is wishful think- ing.
4AM is the third album in Simpson's Knockin At The Backdoor series and she set about recording some retro R&B party tunes for it. Simpson says that there was little or no rehearsal for the record- ing, that she was writing lyrics on the spot and that the most important aspect of the project was the musical bond between herself and the players – as talented a bunch of musos that you could possibly find for this project. Simpson is joined by drummer Mark Grunden, saxophon- ist Dean Hilson, guitarists Dai Jones and Shannon Bourne, keyboardist Andrew Ogburn and several other guest horn players. They sound fantastic.
The album was apparently recorded at long-time musical collaborator Steve Purcell's Belmar Studios by Altona beach "on Tuesday nights after a long day at work, food and wine flowing." Purcell uses ADAT digital machines and is cer- tainly able to capture the warmth of an analogue ambience. It is one of the best sounding local blues records you are likely to hear this year. There is a perfect balance between the instruments and the vocals (and Simpson also sounds marvellous).
All of which would be pointless and largely academic if the songs were not as strong as they are here. There are quite a few absolutely outstanding songs on 4AM, kicking off with the slow, bluesy title track featuring Shannon Bourne's strident guitar and powerful soloing. 'Twanging A New Tune' sounds like a song from the Jimmie Vaughan catalogue. 'For The Last Time' continues the driving upbeat mood in fine style. 'Outta Sight Outta Mind' opens with a piano lead and continues with a funky New Orleans feel. 'Come On Babe' finds Simpson in slow burn-ing ballad mode. Later, another ballad 'Keep Me Close' adopts a distinctive soul groove. It's back to New Orleans for 'All My Tomorrows' with its horn section and loping rhythm. The jump blues of 'I'm Gone' closes the album and again fea- tures some brilliant guitar playing from Jones. Simpson will launch 4am at the Caravan Club in Oakleigh on March 21.
albuM: fortune favoured me
reviewer:Tony Biggs - 3RRR 2012
Kerri Simpson has an astounding voice . She can sing a word such as 'underpants' till it belongs in a cathedral ! Ms. Simpson's new album "Fortune Favoured Me " confirms this spectacular vocal ability. It also shows her taste and judgement in how to use such a voice. From pure power to a purr , it's not the technique that grabs the listener, impressive though that is, but the genuine humanity that shines through each markedly different tune. Kerri Simpson doesn't make bad records, only good ones and great ones. "Fortune Favoured Me " is a great one. Kerri Simpson is a great one. Ignoring the music of Kerri Simpson leaves you a fool to yourself and a burden to others. Say HALLELUJAH!
RadioNational Breakfast - Album of the Week: Kerri Simpson
Melbourne based singer Kerri Simpson is perhaps best known for her mastery of the blues. Although she's equally at home in the world of country, folk and even electronic/dance. Her latest album Fortune Favoured Me once again sees her in command of her trademark smoky hued voice. A record that shines with a selection of tracks veering from the intimate and inviting, to the bold and at times even angry. RadioNational Breakfast
reviewer: Chris Lambie - Rhythms
Oft referred to as Australia’s Queen of the Blues, Kerri Simpson in fact inhabits a multitude of musical worlds. Over a long career, she’s shone her unique light over jazz, pop, gospel and soul. The first CD in her Knockin’ At The Back Door series, Maybe By Midnight, was all about country. By contrast, number two in the series presents a tasty bubbling brew of influences and moods. And no matter where she treads along the musical path, the Melbourne-based songstress breathes playfulness, passion and class into every note.
Composed and co-produced by Charles Jenkins, the title track is nothing less than a masterpiece, with Jenkins’ piano underscoring Simpson’s wistful vocal (singer and song recall Sinead O’Connor’s take on Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares To You’). The husky depth of Simpson’s vocal range and innate sense of phrasing play up to Geoff Achison’s funky guitar on ‘One Time Around’, before a jolt out of the comfort zone.
Her duet/duel with a scorching Jeff Lang (‘Howl’) sees Simpson thrillingly unleash her inner voodoo child – not for the faint-hearted. A tinge of Tex-Mex guitar (Jaimi Faulkner) adorns the self- penned ‘If You Don’t Know By Now’. Simpson the interpreter nails the raw emotion of ‘She Set Fire To The House’ by former Sports-men Pendlebury (on guitar) and Cummings. Sweet vocal backing (Kylie Auldist and Nichaud Fitzgibbon) and Paul Williamson’s sax inject a soulful country groove into Cyndi Boste’s ‘Cry Down’.
Long-time backing band The Prodigal Sons again feature with drummer Mark Grunden, Dean Addison (bass), Ron Tabuteau (guitar) and Ben Grayson (keys). The guest list is fair bursting with even more local instrumental cred: Shannon Bourne, Andrew Ogburn, Chris Rogers and Matt Walker. Great care and craft can be heard on the production (KS and Colin Wynne) and Simpson is commanding in every role: soul- bearing balladeer, N’awlins gypsy temptress, rock queen extraordinaire. Already a classic.
reviewer: Helen Jennings - Roots of Rhythm 3PBS
"an absolute must for your collection"
reviewer: Jonny Von Goes – RRR, 2012
Kerri Simpson's new single Fortune Favoured Me is the title track of her new album. It's a sublime, happy/sad, all warm around the ears piece of grown up pop melancholy.
Warning - Don't go out and buy the cd on the strength of the title track so you can play it at your next AOR dinner party.
Three songs in and you're gonna be assaulted with Howl, a banshee, primal scream number that will kill your dinner party. And from there on in there's all manner of stuff in between. Her music soothes, but it also unsettles. Sometimes she scares me. Sometimes she makes me wanna cry.
No one else sings like Kerri. I was speaking with a bogan at a music festival a few years back. He had just seen Kerri perform. He said to me, "Mate, that fuckin' Kerri Simpson can fuckin' sing".
He was right.
reviewer: Tony Jaggers – 2EARFM, 2012
Smokey, sultry, dark bars and old cars .... just some of the words that spring to mind .... a truly unique album from this outstanding singer.
reviewer: Inpress – 3.10.12
Kerri Simpson is a diamond in the rough and an truly incredible singer - unique, always heartfelt and a Melbourne icon.
GRAHAM BLACKLEY - BEAT MAGAZINE - JAN 2013
Kerri Simpson, a wonderfully soulful singer adept at embracing a host of musical genres with aplomb, is renowned for her skilled contributions to blues ‘n’ roots, world, rock and dance. Her eclecticism shines on the earthy Fortune Favoured Me, an album glittering with highlights. On the quietly elegant title track, written by that legendary Ice Cream Hand Charles Jenkins, Simpson’s gentle vocals are the perfect match for the tender lyrics and the evocative music. One Time Round features slinky, loose-hipped guitar, a light and funky rhythmic touch and bourbon-kissed vocals, while the aptly named Howl is a surging seething stomper that slithers seductively out of the swamp combusting with an animalistic fervour bordering on the supernatural. If You Don’t Know By Now is edgy and urgent alt-country infused rock characterised by a beefy chorus and a bucket load of passion. She Set Fire To The House is punctuated by expressive lead guitar that captures and channels the emotional currents of the song perfectly. Cry Down, which features robust backing vocals by Kylie Auldist and Nichaud Fitzgibbon and sassy sax by Paul Williamson, is a stripped back soulful gem that has an exciting live-in-the-studio feel. Insatiable is a swamp rock powerhouse that sizzles with incendiary guitar and pulsating rhythms while Mr Wolf is darkly atmospheric. The jaunty Pirates Are A Girl’s Best Friend is underpinned at times by a rhythm that is not too far from ska, yet this intriguing song also manages to incorporate elements of jazz and a playful musical theatre vibe. This magical album closes with Silver’s Last Stand, a haunting, wide-screen epic, that is entrancingly filmic in feel and approach.
ON RECORd - Rhythms - December 2012
kErrI sIMPsON CONTINuEs hEr KnocKin' at the BacK dooR sErIEs, wITh ThE rElEasE Of ITs sECOND INsTallMENT.
bY ChrIs laMbIE
From crop fields and front porches to church choirs and speakeasies, roots music has always been about community; a shared celebration of the good times and comfort in times of trouble. Like most of her peers, Kerri Simpson punctuates solo work with wide-ranging collaborations. In the familiar company of backing band The Prodigal Sons, the Melbourne singer invited a stellar lineup of mates to sit in on her latest recording.
"As a working musician, just by its very nature, you play different styles with different people. So my idea was, why not record like that as well?" Simpson explains.
Thanks to a recording grant from Colin Wynne's Thirtymill studios, the petite singer with the powerhouse tonsils put down a stack of tracks for what was to become her Knockin' At The Back Door series. First release Maybe By Midnight (2008), featured the many shades of country. New one, Fortune Favoured Me, delivers a range of rock and roots influences with guest guitarists and songwriters along for the ride.
"I didn't quite know which style to do, so I thought, 'Why don't I take on a big project, record all this stuff, then do it genre by genre?' You don't want to make an album with all those guys and then not give them a guernsy. So I aimed to have their character and style in the songs with each still being something unique in itself. I called it Knockin' At The Back Door because it pays respect to all the genres that I love and that way, I got to play with everybody!
"With such a diverse bunch, each song is a little vignette in its own right. I hate making or listening to albums where everything sounds the same. If you have that time in the studio, my idea is to make the most artistic package that you can; making optimum use of the technology and production side of things. I like layering various elements so you might not really hear something [subtle] the first time around. The more you listen, the more you hear within the soundscape of the track. I love albums like David Bowie's Earthling. It's a whole lesson in production. You put it on and spend another twenty years working out how they did it. I love that manipulation of sound; that side of recording interests and excites me."
At the Melbourne launch of Fortune Favoured Me, the songstress was typi- cally 'in the zone', visibly immersed in each song's story. Band direction was not required. In recording sessions too, Prodigal Sons Ron Tabuteau, Dean Addison, Mark Grunden and Ben Grayson know how to lighten Simp- son's load.
"It's like one of those tribal exercises where you just let yourself fall down," she laughs. "They're right there, every beat, every note. Their mastery of instruments, knowing how to give it light and shade, when to blend, to be dramatic or pull right up... they understand me. We're all working off each other. Everybody gets some sort of creative say and I don't have to be explicit with them. It's all feel. Everything I do is based on feel one way or another. I'm so lucky to work with people in every aspect of my life who are really supportive and appreciative of what I do. Though it looks glamorous, it's a hard industry. So people want to help each other. 'Silver's Last Stand' (with Matt Walker) is predominantly about the history of black cowboys in the West, but about maverick musicians as well. We have incredible support and networks in Melbourne. You need 'em, kinda like unions."
The album strides from the funky to the fiery with co-writes, instrumentation and vocals from Jeff Lang, Geoff Achison, Shannon Bourne and Jaimi Faulkner among others. The title track features Charles Jenkins on piano. "I adore his songwriting and that he comes from such a different school of music than I do. He makes stunning choices about melody, chord progressions and phrasing. From the songs he sent me, that was the one I immediately fell in love with. I'd planned to sing it like an Eartha Kitt thing, very low, deep and bluesy. But Charles suggested I do it like a straight pop song. It's perfect for the song. Very simple, very basic but therein lies its beauty."
Meanwhile, Simpson's live schedule includes outings with The Ears (post-punk), Ray Pereira's Milton (Afro-Caribbean), Sheilas of The '70s (Monique Brumby and Rebecca Barnard), The Majestics (ska'n'soul) and The Gospel Belles. So far, Knockin' At The Back Door albums end with the sound of a door slamming. I look forward the opening of the next one.
albuM: MaYBE BY MidNiGHT
reviewer: John carver – acRoss THE TRacks, PbSFM, 2007
... simply brilliant! There is power, there is light and shade, there are tinges of pure emotion and vocal edges that would please Ms Patsy. The songs are natural. They are heartfelt. They are real.
albuM: suN GoNNa sHiNE
reviewer: Kate WelSMan – RHYTHMs MaGaziNE, 2003
Simpson has crafted an extraordinary album that distills the essence of New Orleans music and her experience. As a way of communicating the personal, she has never been surpassed with her music ... Go buy it!”
albuM: Vodou: soNGs of THE spiRiTs
reviewer: bruce elder – sYdNEY MoRNiNG HERald, FeatureS, 2001
Kerri Simpson inhabits a strange world where blues, jazz, folk, soul, pop, techno and world music collide. Recorded in Haiti, New Orleans and Melbourne this album is a fine and idiosyncratic mixing of musical traditions. It moves easily from the soul-blues of ‘Spirits of Africa’ through the Afro-Techno soundscape of ‘Papa Legba’ to ‘Island of Salvation’ which wouldn’t be out of place on a Prince album. Here is a rarity. A genuinely original Australian artist working in a musical world which defies category. THIS IS A FOUR STAR ALBUM.
albuM: coNfEssiN’ THE BluEs
reviewer: Peter dougherty – aRT sTREaMs, 1999
Simpson can scream, holler, whisper, shout and sing the blues in ways that the pretty girls with tinkling voices that dominate the airwaves could not imagine, let alone emulate.
reviewer: andreW MaSterSon – THE aGE, 1996
Melbourne-based Kerri Simpson’s second full length album finds her working with so much poise, clarity and emotional depth that it beggars the mind to think she is not being chased like a bat out of hell by major record labels. Impressive though the guest list is, the power and the glory of this album resides almost soley in Simpson’s open-throated voice.
albuM: THE aRousiNG reviewer:
andreW MaSterSon – THE aGE, eg, 1995
Simpson moans, wails, growls and croons her way through thirteen moody, dark and pain soaked compositions, successfully mixing in musical references seemingly culled from as far afield as the dangerously mystical Louisiana swamp, and the menacing topography of spaghetti western badlands.
If Patti Smith, circa ‘Horses’, and Lydia Lunch, circa ‘Some Velvet Morning’ had ever got together with a bottle of bourbon and a tape deck, something like The Arousing might have been the result. They never did, however, so it’s a good job Ms Simpson eventually got around to doing it. Wonderful stuff.
ALBUM: The Ska Vendors – Feelin' Fine
reviewer: Sam Sweeney - sfmedia.com.au - 2015
For over a decade, Melbourne ska pioneers THE SKA VENDORS have kept alive the ska movement of decades past, and their debut album 'Feelin' Fine' does not disappoint. With their signature Jamaican-inspired sound, suffused with elements of Rocksteady and Reggae, you're taken on a journey through both eras and cultures, executed by a band who have become masters of their craft.
'Newport Platform 2' launches 'Feelin' Fine' into the stratosphere of ska, with its punchy horn lines and rocksteady piano introduction. A simplistic rhythm section emphasises the melodies of the horns throughout the song, highlighting the immense technical ability of THE SKA VENDORS' horn players, while transporting their audience to a far off beach in a Spanish locale through the imagery invoked by their tune. Track 2, 'Miss Baxter-Browne,' takes on a far different approach, initiating the story of a repeat-offender heartbreaker. Once again, this song delivers some very Spanish vibes, showcasing deep vocal ability and continuing to exhibit an immensely successful amalgamation of both rhythm and melody the complements and enhances additional vocal elements.
'Do Rocksteady,' puts you in a time machine and takes you back a few decades, paying homage to the smooth sound of 60s rocksteady with a relaxed beat and accentuated horn lines, before the mid-section of the album lacked the appeal of the opening few songs. By no means are these songs terrible; they continue to convey the mature ska sound that THE SKA VENDORS have seemingly mastered, though I found myself slightly less engaged and less enticed by the many components offered by each song. Perhaps it is just my inclination towards greater variation within an album – perhaps not – but regardless, there is undeniably some serious musical talent to both admire and learn from.
I found the ninth track from the album 'Love Me or Leave,' to resemble a slightly more mature, toned down version of early REEL BIG FISH tunes; something I was pleasantly surprised by. The album's title track, 'Feelin' Fine,' is an upbeat, swinging tune that, with catchy horn lines and duet vocals, actually makes you feel pretty fine. The following track 'Easy Snappin,' is another feel good tune, asserting with content conviction that "a man don't need much more than this". The organ solo midway through the song is a quirky addition, tying the feel good vibes of the song together nicely.
Though 'Feelin' Fine' lost me briefly, THE SKA VENDORS have excelled at maintaining the relevance of ska music, executed with proficiency and a complete, satisfying sound. I found it incredibly difficult to believe that this was only the first full length album release by THE SKA VENDORS; as far as debut albums go, 'Feelin' Fine' significantly exceeds expectations and makes for thoroughly gratifying listening.