6.5 out of 10: Low-key rockabilly blues professionally done.
The cult of the individual and the cult of the new go hand in hand – I am a unique snowflake, I have my own special gifts, the world awaits my revolutionising stamp. Unfulfilled dreams, the getting of wisdom and perhaps a certain sense of nostalgia all put paid to such desire for constant renewal, and one is free to admire excellence in craft and form.
Louis King is no whippersnapper with grandiose dreams of artistic fulfilment; Louis King is no rebel despite paying homage to a musical form that was once rebellious: Louis King is a rockabilly bluesman with a whiskey voice who knows how to please.
Louis King hits the stage at the Northcote Social Club sporting a fine suit replete with a collar larger than the state of Mississippi and a finer, well-oiled quiff the height of hilltops. He’s launching his new album with the Liars Klub, That… and a Quarter, to a reasonably-well populated audience of his peers who have resisted the siren song of leather on willow on the big screen in the public bar so as to boogie down to some blues. The rollicking instrumental Fangin’ kicks off the show, but as soon as Louis King sings in the next, The Devil Made Me Do It, there’s no doubt that the best instrument on stage is that voice.
Louis King’s voice is a resonant Holden Premier: nothing too flash, but powerful, familiar, reassuring, a classic. Louis King is steeped in his genre, and it’s his voice that makes the music more than just a museum piece.
The night shines most brightly, though, when Jake Mason’s keys and Ian Collard’s harmonica are a focus. Mason’s solos are a highlight for their ability to evoke the swamps of Louisiana, and Collard, of Collard Greens and Gravy fame, adds a rougher, more authentic edge to such songs as Elvis, Jesus and the Devil with his scorching runs on the mouth harp.
Louis King and the Liars Klub get people dancing, but it’s not in the freeform style of the latest hipshaking sounds. In the spaces on the floor, couples are repeating the steps they learnt in their swing and rock and roll classes. There are no new moves on display, no inspired invention, yet there’s an undoubted delight in watching well-worn forms executed with aplomb. Louis King and the Liars Klub ain’t post-rock nor electro-pop nor grindcore — god bless ’em for that and the delicious night of rockabilly blues that they serve up.