Take two men, a blues fuelled guitar, a set of firm and eagerly heavy drums plus expressively inviting songs and you have Welsh duo Henry’s Funeral Shoe and the second album Donkey Jacket. Too simple a description to be fair as there is much more to the band’s music and a thoroughly engaging and at times exhilarating experience it is too.
Brothers Aled (vocals/guitars) and Brennig (drums/percussion) Clifford return with the follow up to their highly acclaimed debut Everything’s For Sale, bringing forth more of their striking blues/southern rock/ garage punk mix though on Donkey Jacket they have moved it notable steps forward in creativity for a more rounded yet still slightly raw sound. From Ystrad Mynach, South Wales the brothers formed the band in 2008 inspired and influenced by their father’s vinyl collection whilst growing up, artists making the deepest impression including the likes of The Who, Peter Green, Robert Johnson and the Beatles. Their music is open in its influences from artists and sounds alike but they are infused into their own ideas to create blues veined rock ‘n’ roll with psychedelic and eager garage punk urgency.
One could not say Donkey Jacket is particularly unique but its defined variety and expressive songwriting and music more than stands the band out from the similar aurally adorned crowd. From the opening hearty blues rock of ‘Be Your Own Invention’ with its loving guitars and acute melodic energy through to the closing emotive ballad ‘Across The Sky’, the album intrigues and envelopes the ear to great satisfaction.
Every song offers up variety and a heartfelt passion whatever its guise, the twosome feeling their songs as they bring them to life for us. Each track comes with well written and unpredictable cycles though the band never make things complicated leaving each track impossible to simply gloss over or let slip by the ear. The strongest tracks on the album show its varied content. The southern blues of ‘Love Is A Fever’ with a fine rock start is impressive as is the wonderful gothic darkness of ‘The Walking Crawl’ with its slight but lingering discordant tendencies reminding of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers. The albums best track by far though is ‘Dog Scratched Ear’, a song incessant in attack and beckoning energy that is spined by a vibrant and mesmeric resonating riff. It refuses to be ignored, demanding and getting full attention with its garage punk flavours and firm direct rhythms.
Recorded by Tim Hammill in Wales and mixed in Detroit by Jim Diamond the release features guest appearances alongside the duo’s own flavoursome skills. The reefabilly tinged ‘Bottom To The Top’ features John “Ned” Edwards, a long time collaborator of Van Morrison on slide guitar and mandolin, whilst elsewhere sees the contributions of Pete Hurley, the bass player for the legendary seventies Welsh band Lone Star, and Justin Beynon of the Broken Vinyl Club on piano. Donkey Jacket is a lively affair that never dulls the senses or lets them drift off elsewhere. It might not be breaking new grounds but it is an impressive and at times smartly inspired release. Rich in freshness and fun Henry’s Funeral Shoe have given an album that feeds the senses and warms the heart, a perfect tonic for those long winter days and nights.