by Matthew Crain, as appeared in September 2013
By ending North by Northwest with the locomotive speeding into the tunnel, Alfred Hitchcock steals Django Rinehardt’s sex metaphor from twenty years earlier: the rhythm surges straight ahead, throttle wide open, boiler red hot, smiling face on the front of the engine, steam blasting from between the wheels, the horn blows Whoooo! and this ain’t nothing in the world but la pompe guitar strumming. (Sorry, rose, but this is The Machine Age and Eros is now a train.)
But just as la pompe (“the pump”) is the veriest representation of the giddy, nigh-unto-tears frenzy of new love, it also makes us lazy, and, despite our poverty, we just lay around the shack, bs for hours, and if we happen to glance away from the bangles and pencil moustaches, it’s only to smirk at the world digging its own grave. Like Bo Diddley’s handjive, Django’s la pompe is a seed that, once planted by the waters, shall not be moved and grows rank and takes over, twining around and round itself while putting out the most delicate indigo blossoms. (Note how flowers always get their say.)
Such planting must have happened in I’ve Found a New Baby, Hot Bijouxx’s first cd, and especially in the fertile mind of their guitarist, Ryan McNeely. With each down-up-down You like that? You like that? stroke, he winds himself up tighter, adding his knowledge of what’s between the lines of “so exciting”, and when it’s time for his memory of “the moonlight on the sands” – look out: the train is switched onto his private tracks, and he struts, stomps, and dazzles you with solos that are anything but circumstantial. I’m talking about his solo on “Caravan”; his best is on the torch song “Cry Me a River”.
If he only was inspired and the rest mediocre, Hot Bijouxx would be lukewarm. But these jewels are all hot. Kevin Ripley’s brush work on the snare gets me off (caress, cares – slap that thing). Accordionist Dallas Vetty decorates his arpeggios like he’s stringing lights on Rockefeller’s Tannenbaum, and no matter he’s standing on tiptoe on the top of the ladder and leaning out past the rails: gypsies, jazz, and life itself wouldn’t be nothing without risk. His leathery, lathery, lusty and yet solemn timbre and the accidentals he throws in mixes the bitter into the sweet of these love songs. Eighty-five percent cocoa his solos are (trains; flowers; now chocolate). Stir until glossy and the mixture begins to pull away from the side of the pan. Add crunchy locusts. Pour everything all over your hair, shirt and sandals to make straight the way for the singer.
Louis Armstrong and Björk unwrapped a bedroll, and they named their baby Kristen Jasionowski. Like Pops, she sands off the first syllables of her words and her singing slips around like a bar of soap in a bathtub. Like Mama, she is liable to leap tall octaves in a single bound and break out into something you might hear in the jungle, (or prehistoric times: we’re talking The Pterodactyl From Ipanema here), and then mesmerize you with a sunny, breezy, gently swaying Ah . .
Recently they performed at Easton’s Centre Square with Johnny Peppercraft on bass saxophone [sic], and this guy can really honk. Unfortunately, the fountain drowned out the show (Can it not be turned off during concerts?) and only every now and then could you hear their intuition and chemistry and just how good this band is. Buy their cd at hotbijouxx.com.
See them Saturday, September 21 at Riverside Festival of The Arts along the scenic Delaware River in historic Easton, PA.