Imelda May, "Tribal" (Verve)
Irish singer Imelda May sometimes sounds like a performer who was born a few decades too late, but is not letting it stop her having a good time. With her bright red lipstick and slick curl of hair, May harkens back to rockabilly pioneers like Wanda Jackson and early rock 'n' roll outlaws such as Eddie Cochran.
Her signature sound is rockabilly seasoned with jazz and blues and spiced with punk attitude. It's party music with a dash of danger, celebrating good times that are a little bit naughty. "I like a little bit of bad in a good, good man," May sings on "Right Amount of Wrong," a track on "Tribal," her third U.S. album and a vibrant showcase for her talents.
May has a voice like good bourbon, smooth and rich with a bit of an edge, and it's backed on the album by Al Gare's lolloping double bass and machine-gun guitar played by the singer's husband, Darrel Higham.
They sound like a band forged in the cauldron of sweaty club performances. When they unleash their energy, it's hard to resist — and when May sings "There's a wild woman livin' inside of me," you believe her.
She extols the temptations of the flesh in "Hellfire Club," an ode to drinking and debauchery in Dublin, and introduces a ripple of sensuality along with the sultry trumpet in "Wicked Way."
But the most characteristic tracks are good-time anthems such as the propulsively danceable and lyrically wry "Round the Bend," in which she proclaims: "I love you though you're always on eBay."
At heart, these 12 songs are raucous shouts of affirmation, a fact captured in their titles. "It's Good to Be Alive" sums up May's attitude and "I Wanna Dance" says it all.
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