THE REDCATZ - YELL FOR MORE
The Redcatz - Yell for More
Released September 16th 2022
Reviewed by Kate 11th October 2022
The Redcatz are:
Dennis Preston - Guitar and Vocals
Mark Hardwick - Bass and Vocals
Colin Brown - Drums and Vocals
There’s two things you need to know about the Redcatz: they are probably the freshest band to be reviewed for a while, and probably the most hard working too. They started as a band at the beginning of 2020 and managed only one rehearsal before the pandemic hit, and fortunately were not deterred by the stay-at-home orders, instead putting together a promo video remotely and beginning to book shows far in advance. Since the world has returned to something approximating normal, they are averaging over a hundred gigs per year around the Hastings and Bexhill area. They’re also a band that listens to their audience: fans began to ask if they had CDs for sale, so they started to record their gigs and the multi-talented Dennis mixed and mastered some of the crowd-pleasers to make this album.
There’s also something you should know before we dig into this album too. This is a full cover album. That is not a point of criticism at all. A really good cover should either provide an authentic experience of the original song or give the band a chance to put their own stamp on a song. The Redcatz covers fall into the latter camp, in the sense that it feels like you’re in the recording studio listening to a raw demo by a rockabilly legend before the edges are all buffed away. It also means you get exactly what the band aimed for with Yell For More, namely a record of their no doubt electrifying live shows. Mixed in mono, the album incorporates heavy abuse of digital emulations of ‘50s preamps, compressors and tape machines. They describe their sound as ‘a raw and dirty take on the sound of 50s rock n roll’, and that is exactly what you get!
So, close your eyes and imagine you’re at a venue by the seaside and the Redcatz have just come on stage…
Rock this Joint: Bill Haley’s original has this frosty, assertive crispness to it but once the Redcatz get their paws on it, it turns into a booming, echoing blues number with these long, smokey guitar solos. Dennis’ deeper vocals on this number give you visions of a Chicago speakeasy or underground party that you aren’t quite cool enough to make the guestlist for.
Rockabilly Boogie: Mark’s slap bass on this song is tremendous, keeping this song rooted in the traditional rockabilly style of the Johnny Burnette original. The yowls and outsider qualities of this 1957 tune are gone and replaced by a punchy rhythm and twanging bass. This may upset the rockabilly purists out there, but this is a really danceable song.
That Dont Move Me: It’s all about Mark on this one, taking on lead vocals and driving the action with the slap bass front and center. In some ways it’s impossible to touch or improve on Carl Perkins, but this is a song which the Redcatz have re-imagined. Because Mark doesn’t have the iconic Perkins sweetness in his voice, this tight, sharp cover now becomes personal and relatable. You also hear someone in the audience shouting ‘yay!’ in the middle of the bass solo, reminding you that this is just a taster of their live experience.
You Don’t Love Me: it’s twice the tempo and none of the brass of Willie Cobbs’ original, but this angrier cover retains the slick guitar work. It’s the sound of getting over a breakup rather than lamenting its end and updates this foot tapping classic for this century.
Shake Rattle and Roll: This version owes more to Elvis than Bill Haley or Big Joe Turner, and the Redcatz goal of creating a garage version of that iconic 50s sound is reached and then some in this tune. The slap bass is turned right up and the counter that the piano provided in the old school versions we know, and love is replaced with this light snare and cymbal combination courtesy of Colin. There’s these little squealing jumps on the guitar that keep everyone on their toes, ready to hit the dancefloor.
Oh My Baby’s Gone: it’s less that this cover sticks closer to Ray Sharpe’s original, but more that it accesses the depth of the song that contemporary recording equipment couldn't fully capture. By taking the bass deeper and keeping the tempo stricter, it’s no great stretch to imagine how it would have sounded live in 1958.
Matchbox: More Carl Perkins, and that’s not a bad thing. Once again the mood has changed in this cover, and Perkins’ acceptance of his fate is replaced with a defiant wail from Dennis and a much faster beat. Smashing in some hot guitar chords, this song is just as hip-shakin as the rest of this record.
Blue Suede Shoes: The first of two big name, instantly recognisable covers on this album and a bold choice by the Redcatz. This version is definitely closer to Elvis than Perkins, but the band have wisely stepped away from trying to emulate the King too closely, instead opting for some subtle harmonies and full-on Chuck Berry energy.
Folsom Prison Blues: The second big cover, and the one I was most dubious about reviewing as I idolize the Man in Black far more than is healthy. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised: it’s a honky tonk, country, line dancing in a saloon for the recently paroled version and it carries its own charm thanks to the overlay of these gorgeous 1950s effects. Let’s face it, it’s also much better than Joaquim Phoenix’s attempt at a cover.
Cool Off Baby: Again, a smart choice not to take too much from Billy Barrix’s lively, stuttering original, aside from the energetic, jumping guitar. It’s a slower, more relaxed take on the lover waiting for his girl to come around and takes the time to showcase each of the trio’s talents, plus it’s a lovely, chilled end to this record.
You won’t get note for note, Elvis impersonator covers on this record, but when tackling these huge rockabilly favorites to do so would be cheesy and a bit tacky. What you will get is distorted, garage-toned, heartfelt, bluesy interpretations of some real classics that are going to get all the swing dancers out and jiving, and even wallflowers like me will shake their hips to these songs. With amazing retro guitar and not only an understanding of what these songs mean but how to put a new spin on them, the Redcatz are a force to be reckoned with and undoubtedly have great things ahead of them.