Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes @ GoodGod Small Club, Sydney (25/5/12)

The grooving Goodgod Small Club with the great little band/dance room in the rear is a hive for hipsters old and young this past Friday night. While people who arrived early took part in jugs of cocktails and/or food from The Dip Cafeteria, the queue to get into the music room was building a good hour or so before any music hit the stage. People had come from as far away as the wilds of Canberra to feast their eyes and shake their money maker to a blend of rhythm and blues, soul and harmonies delivered by none other than Clairy Browne and the Banging Rackettes.

Nikki Thorburn made her way through the shimmer and lights on the stage and her voice came out with warmth and a coating of honey. Her opening set was a perfect accompaniment to the night of female vocalistas ahead. Nikki, performing under the nom de plume Iluka, had people taking notice and listening. Entertaining the crowd with her aforementioned soulful vocals and delicate guitar approach and a trio that filled the room with fine tunes was a charming introduction to this soulful provider of folky-jazz. The reading she did of her track Eyes Closed was particularly engaging.

Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes live up to the hype that is following them down the road as they drive their huge tour bus around this country of ours. With a stage set set that was glitter and tinsel, cheap strip joint circa 1952, the ornaments were far from just hanging around; they were a whirlwind of joy and life that brought the intimate Danceteria to life. People were crowded to the front of the small stage and if you could find a spare space to juke and jive it was not long before you had a river of perspiration sliding down your neck. Clairy Browne has a voice that moves you and the rest of the harmonising Rackette’s are pretty damn fine, yessiree.

Soul is back (still) and no matter what you say this is part of a revival that has been hitting us for the last decade. From Winehouse to the Dap Kings taking an old noise to young ears and to artists who had virtually disappeared like Betty Lavette and the Screaming Eagle Of Soul Charles Bradley, there is a smorgasbord of music from the ‘50s and ‘60s that has been grabbed and repackaged for the 21st Century. A reprise it may be, but this gorgeous group of howling females has added some spice to make it work. Frankie, with some salacious saxophone, is enough to set the dance floor on fire. Add in a chorus of backing vocals and handclaps this could be Detroit or Memphis, or some other juke joint beamed down from the past.

This junket by Clairy and her band is promoting the release of their latest 45 record that should be spinning on your local jukebox. Love Letter is delectable and punchy and if you want an appetiser of what these musos deliver, check out their video from The Old Geelong Gaol that goes with this tune. The highlight is truly Ms. Browne and her Rackettes. They cut a fine figure and deliver in spades the vocals and moves you would expect. With a much more than adequate group of players in support (kudos goes out to the sax of Mr. McNulty), Camilla Ruby and Loretta harmonise with perfection. Another horn player could add some value, but this is a slight quibble when you are faced with this barrage of rhythm and blues like this.

Large bands like this are a sight to behold and keeping them on the road and moving forward is not an easy thing to do in an industry that makes it hard for musicians to survive. So get off your couch, slick back your hair and spare some cash for a hard working group that we need to keep us grooving.