The Gramophone Party - 'It Happened in June' and 'Broken Hearted Blues' CD reviews
Suddenly we have not one but two new albums featuring the Isle of Wight's finest, namely the Grimshaw siblings and their friends. The two records are quite different but very welcome releases. Broken Hearted Blues is basically a fairly straightforward duo album, deliberately conceived to be similar to Angelina and JC's live performances, and in that respect it succeeds far better than any of their previous recordings. A few tracks have appeared on earlier releases, but are presented here with different arrangements. As usual, Angelina's vocals are stunning and seem to be getting even better. She has to be one of our finest lady blues singers and her rock-steady rhythm and fingerpicked guitar accompaniments should not be overlooked either. Many respected experts regard JC as one of the best acoustic musicians in the country and some say he is the best. He effortlessly switches from straight guitar, where the notes sometimes come out like a firecracker, to mandolin, harmonica, lap slide guitar and ukulele. All 16 tracks are written by Angelina or JC, although their father, Johnny Grimshaw contributes a few lyrics, and take their influences from country blues, classic blues, cajun, vintage Hawaiian, early jazz, folk and more. The title track features some fine bottleneck playing, whereas 'Advertise Your Love' sounds like it ought to be a Bessie Smith classic, but was actually penned by Angelina and features JC's outstanding lap slide guitar and jazzy lead guitar (this is a fine example of the few, yet restrained and effective overdubs). 'Hurry Home Blues' gives you an idea of just how ridiculously fast JC can play - and not to show off, as everything is played with great feeling and purpose.
The Gramophone Party consists of the Grimshaws along with Jack Tait on trumpet and trombone, Paul Armfield on double bass and saw (I kid you not) and Rupert Brown on drums and percussion. They have already completed well received live appearances at the Brecon and Isle of Wight jazz festivals. Their 13 track debut was recorded in mono with the whole band sitting around a single microphone, with astonishingly good results quality-wise. Three tracks are original with the remaining 10 being 'trad. arr. The Gramophone Party'. Fans of the likes of King Benny Nawahi and Sol Ho'opi'i should check out 'Milenberg Joys' with JC's devastatingly clever lap slide and ukulele techniques. Those who have seen him live will know he switches from one instrument to the other mid-song, apparently with no gaps. The jazzier numbers make great use of Angelina's voice - for example 'Solitude' and 'The Very Thought of You', the latter featuring superb double bass playing from Paul Armfield. The latter's musical saw can be heard to good effect on the instrumental 'La Rosita' with even more brilliant lap slide and very effective percussion. If you are looking for straight blues, give these two a miss, but if your horizons extend a bit further, they are both excellent releases that could well be of interest to you. Michael Prince
Banbury Blues Festival 5th October 2002
This festival gets better and better and this time there was an afternoon session to extend the proceedings. I was there for the evening though and despite strong competition, notably Ben Waters and Dino Baptiste (who did a brief but storming double header in Ben's solo Spot), my reason for being there was JC and Angelina. They are the most delightful people and their music is quite enchanting. JC is an amazingly talented musician and plays various guitars, mandolin and harp. Angelina plays acoustic rhythm guitar and has an exquisite voice. She sounds totally authentic when singing songs by the likes of Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie. As an acoustic duo, JC and Angelina are unmatched. They have a wide range of influences (Country, jazz, blues, etc.) but have their own distinctive sound and write some really haunting songs of their own. Personal favourites include Honey Man and Show Some Kindness, both of which featured here. Despite the competition elsewhere in the building, the room was packed and the audience went away happy. Catch JC and Angelina when you can - whatever your preferred style of blues, you'll love them - promise!.... Max Haymes
Manx Blues Festival
JC and Angelina's musical taste runs like the Mississippi river, deep and wide. The duo's music, both originals and traditional, is steeped in hard Chicago blues, dark Delta ballads and kicking Cajun stomps. They'll even throw in Vaudeville jazz, Hawaiian and Mexican tunes along with traditional Irish and English reels, JC and Angelina's live shows often feature special guests and impromptu moments. Pretty Things guitarist and former Rolling Stone and Isle of Wight resident Dick Taylor added electric guitar to JC and Angelina's Root Sap tape. JC Grimshaw is both a fine songwriter and instrumentalist having been in Midge Ure's band for a couple of tours. His playing on various guitars, slide and mandolin is fired by such diverse influences as Blind Willie McTell and Django Reinhardt. He is simply a delight to hear. Angelina is one of the best female blues vocalists in Britain - A Bessie Smith or Memphis Minnie without the scratches! Dave Wade
Rye Festival 11th September 1999
... one week later and we were in the Rye treasury for the 11th September gig of Angelina and JC Grimshaw who were in the town for the first time in about five years. The duo live on the Isle of Wight and get plenty of gigs there throughout the year (up to eight gigs a week in the summer and four residencies in the winter). Consequently, we do not see them as much as we would like on the mainland. Their act now includes many of their own compositions but their blues roots always show. Straight blues came in the form of Bessie Smith's 'Do Your Duty' with stunning lap-style slide from JC and belting vocals from his sister. It took some coercing to get them to do it, but they eventually featured three vintage Hawaiian swing numbers where JC comes into his own on ukulele (resophonic) and proves he has to be the best exponent of hula slide this side of the Atlantic. These outstanding displays of virtuoso playing elicited a fantastic response from the audience. At the end of the evening they were joined by Rag Mama Rag, who jammed in on slide guitar and washboard while Angelina played guitar and JC mandolin.
Village Bike Records