London’s finest Gypsy-Swing-Punk-Octet, Ella and the Blisters, return with exceptional new EP
Ella and the Blisters are a London octet, an eight piece band to you and me, take elements of folk, gypsy swing, punk, rock-a-billy, skiffle, soul and zydeco and mix up to create something that is contemporary, but also references the past. Last year’s self-titled album was a tour-de-force and their live sets are a celebration of life in all its facets. One song their making your dance like a loon, the next you’re weeping with regret and remorse and then you’re joining arms with the person next to you as everyone sways and sings along at the chorus.
Lonesome Town is the new EP from the band, and basically picks up where their debut left off. Opening track Lonesome Town gets things going with rousing horns, stuttering drums. When the chorus kicks in the song explodes in to part zydeco, part New Orleans funeral march, part hoe-down. All this is backed up by lead singer, and Blister, Gabriella Romano’s delightful vocals. Maria follows hot on Lonesome Town’s heels. Joyous lyrically violin lines, courtesy of Richard Moore, dance over, through and under slightly lamentable lyrics about the life of the heroine Maria. Romano shows off not just her vocals, but skill as a storyteller, by telling a compelling and coercive narrative, all back by an Irish jig.
After this illustrious start, the EP throws up the whirlwind that is Talk About Shit Things Happening to Good People. Lying somewhere between morality tale and humours ditty, it romps through four minutes easily. The major different here is that guitarist Hugh Byrne takes over on vocal duties. This is clever for a few reasons first it gives Romano a break in the live set and secondly it adds some texture to what’s come before. Next up is the EP’s stand out track Madeleine Foe. On Madeleine Foe Romano and gang has really raised their collective game. The music has a dark Gothic element to it, a new feature for the Blisters, and it sounds like Romano’s been reading a lot of Edgar Allen Poe or Arthur Machen. As Madeleine Foe sways, skews and vaults along the room feels a bit colder and spooky. It’s nothing short of marvellous!
The final two tracks are new versions of older songs. Molly Broom was the stand out moment on the debut album and Nothin’ Ain’t For Free is a live favourite. While these new versions are in keeping with the rest of Lonesome Town, they don’t top the original versions and their inclusion feels like an exercise in abstemious bumping up the EP’s length. The only downside is that the EP doesn’t end with a cover of the Ricky Nelson classic. What we’re given however is something better. But can you imagine Romano and her rag-tag group doing that though? With a slight gypsy-swing-punk twist? That could be something very special indeed!