I always get a little charge of excitement when I reach into my PO box and pull out a package from Heptown Records out of Sweden. I’ve already reviewed a number of releases from the label, and they haven’t let me down yet. Heptown knows how to choose its bands and they produce hot rock and roll.
Waiting for a Train is the debut album by Lady Luck Combo out of Malmö/Heslingborg, Sweden, and this is a great first effort by three guys who’ve clearly done their rockabilly homework. These guys keep Heptown’s streak of winners alive and well.
Stuffed full of 11 original tunes and a great cover of one of my favorites, the wonderful “Broken Heart” which was first recorded in 1958 by the Moonlighters, this CD rocks from beginning to end. And through the program, you get a taste of urban rockabilly, countrified rockabilly, dark and moody rockabilly, a hint of psychobilly, and a couple of excellent surf instrumentals thrown in to boot.
I’ve really been enjoying this record. The band chose a bit of a more modern recording sound and yet managed to capture the true essence of vintage rockabilly with all of its energy, passion, and tattered glory. Bassist Marcus “Laban” Närvik plays very nice slap-style bass and yet is content to have his glorious slap work mixed back so that it doesn’t over power the mix and allows Per Bökberg’s hi-hat and cymbal work to be heard more prominently than you usually expect on rockabilly recordings.
But don’t let that throw you; the sound is completely convincing rockabilly and lovers of the authentic sound will enjoy this just as much as aficionados of modern rockabilly recording sounds. And aside from all this nit-picking about the mix, this record just rocks straight ahead with no holds barred and no apologies.
Vocalist/guitarist Martin Blad does a great job leading the band in both of his roles. His vocal style is refreshingly straight ahead. He doesn’t spend much energy at all trying to sound rockabilly. He just belts out the tunes and it comes out rockabilly. And his guitar playing is fun and inventive while paying due homage to the guitar heroes of the genre.
As I mentioned, the band wrote all but one of the tunes on this record, with Blad acting as the main song writer, although Närvik contributes two great songs in the dark-tinged title track and the hot rockin’ “Bad Boy Bop.” Actually, another tune was written by a friend of the band, but it’s still and original. The record is jammed full of really strong songs and there’s not one cut here that I dislike. The entire album is enjoyable from beginning to end. That’s quite an accomplishment for any band, but even more impressive for a debut record!
Jumping from rockers like “Be Bop A Lulu,” “She Went to Vegas,” and the blistering opener, “Peggy Lee,” to moody minor-key numbers like “Waiting For A Train” and the psychobilly-leaning “Rockabilly Reaper” (which bridges the gap between the rockabilly tunes and the surf instrumentals), the band sprinkles the disc with gems like the Johnny Cash influenced “Cry Over You” and never skips a beat. The record flows from one to the next just like it was the most natural progression in the world. The guys did a great job of sequencing this project.
This is not the first time I’ve been amazed by Scandinavian bands that sound so convincingly American that I’ve had to actually check the liner notes to make sure where they came from, but if I put any one of these songs on the “turntable” (you younger guys and gals might have to ask your parents what that is!) in the mix of songs by American artists, I guarantee you would not be able to tell that this is not an American band. I’ve developed a soft spot in my rockin’ ol’ heart for singers that deliver their rockabilly with their native accent, but I also love bands like this that sound so authentically American that it makes you feel as though you’re listening to a long-lost recording from 1956.
The songs were recorded at Studio Möllan in Malmö by Emil Isaksson, and he did a fine job with the recording. Isaksson also handled the mixdown and the mastering and a great job all around. The songs on this record were recorded mostly in the traditional rockabilly way: Three guys and their instruments belting it out live. There are a few overdubs here and there, but mostly what you get on this record is the raw delivery of three very talented young men who’ve honed their chops during more than 130 live gigs over the past four years.
This record is another complete winner from Sweden’s Heptown Records and I’ve really been enjoying listening to it.
My recommendation: Get Waiting For A Train into your player as soon as possible and turn it up!