Hugh Coltman

"Who's Happy?"

(Okeh); Jazz

By ​Phil ​Bennett

Gloriously bold, seductive and peculiar, High Coltman’s new foray into New Orleans jazz sounds like he was born dancing in the second line.

With a past that featured a slow transformation from blues to folk and then a lightning switch to jazz with his tribute to Nat King Cole, it seems that an unforeseen spark has been lit in this man’s belly and he has now embraced the street sounds of New Orleans like a native.

Swinging deftly between richly quivering blues ballads and beautifully stitched together processional brass band marches, he plies his latest trade with aplomb and a deep sense of its heritage and history.

Referencing influences from Dr John to Tom Waits, he is as comfortable singing in English or French and his voice possesses the warm, alluring tone of a young Harry Connick Jnr, but with the ragged edge of someone who sings from experience.

The musicianship on these tracks is in a class of its own and there is a curious alchemy that bristles around the edges of these songs, from the claustrophobictelephone-like guitar motif on All Slips Away to the smoky simplicity of the piano/acoustic interplay of Civvy Street and the slow, faltering brass rhythm of The Sinner.

Topping things off with a superb foot stomping version of Charles Sheffield’s It’s Your Voodoo Working, replete with glistening guitar and wailing call and response vocals. It doesn’t thump or pound away, it simply rolls like the Mississippi tide amidst waves of Hammond organ and throbbing bass, while vocal ad libs float across the top like driftwood.

A classy, cross cultural mix, Who’s Happy? will please anyone who has a fondness for music that swings, nudges and bites.

Captivating.

​Phil ​Bennett

Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.