California Feetwarmers – Gloryland

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

GLORYLAND is the latest album from The California Feetwarmers. Anyone who saw them on their 2018 UK dates will attest to their power and draw as a live act, with many highlights of those shows recorded in the studio for this album. According to guitarist on the track Eddie Condon, Fats Waller’s “The Minor Drag” was a head arranged tune recorded in 1929 with a pick up band, playing by ear, after he and the hard living pianist had spent the rehearsal time and money on a two day bender. The Feetwarmers version retains that ‘seat of the pants’ tempo, with a wonderful refrain from the cornet and clarinet. Fats would I’m sure be pleased. “Over The Gloryland” from an even earlier 1906, with guest Jerron ‘Blindboy’ Paxton in wonderful voice, is a fine piece of early Jazz. The Feetwarmers can swing and blow when the brass and clarinet soar together, they can also play low and make a quiet storm behind the banjo. “I Got Dreams” marries their period jazz with some Oh Brother Where Art Thou sweet vocal harmonies and playing that just purrs. Charles De Castro on cornet, gets a lot of those evocative early Ellington band growls over the driving beat of the band’s masterful reading of “Short Dressed Girl.” The Merle Travis song “No Vacancy” has beautiful Western Swing warm vocals and a great rolling tempo. Paxton contributes further great blues vocal to “Rock Away Blues” and the woozy ‘I’m drifting back to dreamland’ duetting with the huge growling sousaphone and bass clarinet. “Wani Night” and “Feeling Drowsy” are a pair of wonderfully atmospheric instrumentals, mixing great jazz playing alongside some surprising twists and flourishes. “Royal Garden Blues”, like so much of this album is filled with the musical sounds of my youth. I didn’t spend my shorts years immersed on dusty 78s, rather watching Saturday reruns of Tom and Jerry and Laurel and Hardy. The crisp percussion, tight rhythms and free wheeling brass of the California Feetwarmers puts me right back there again. This is an exciting band, combining New Orleans early jazz, western swing, blues, Bluegrass and Country, into a rich freewheeling feel good music with layers. The band throw in some fine vocals and with ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton whose vocals, shift between Tom Waits growl to a Leon Redbone slurred croon, they are lifted further.