Kitty, Daisy & Lewis Smoking in Heaven Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

An addictive third set from the authentic-not-authentic scratchy RnB trio.

Noel Gardner 2011

There is a great deal about Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, a trio of two sisters and a brother from Kentish Town, London, which is perfectly pitched to irk the purists. Specifically, purists in the field of pre-rock’n’roll American music, which is mined over the (slightly indulgent) hour of Smoking in Heaven, their third album. Seymour, Steve Buscemi’s eccentric 78-collecting character in the movie Ghost World, would likely take a dim view of this group, guitarist Lewis Durham’s ownership and use of an authentic 78 cutting machine notwithstanding.

Their position in this decade’s musical sphere, and the identity of their friends in high places, screams ‘gimmickry’ to the casual observer. Signed to Rob da Bank’s label Sunday Best, they’ve toured with Coldplay at Chris Martin’s invitation; Amy Winehouse claimed to be star-struck when meeting drummer Daisy Durham recently. As much as they dedicate themselves to the cause of authentically scratchy R&B – recording at home on entirely analogue gear – K, D&L are unavoidably stuck playing dress-up. So why, all this considered, is Smoking in Heaven so likeable, even (no pun intended) addictive?

Fundamentally, it’s because they sound like they don’t just have a warmth for the genres they plunder here: they know them inside out. There’s lashings of R&B and jump blues, intermittent spikes of country 1940s style, even brief bursts of trad Hawaiian folk and Jamaican ska (a rare post-r’n’r concession). Topped with the vocals of all three members – universally faux-American, but fierce or mournful when the situation demands either – the result is an album which could quite possibly fool enthusiasts of old-timey sonics, if they didn’t see what was on the stereo.

An exception to this is Messing With My Life, an attempt to force their aesthetic through a modern pop-shaped window which falls awkwardly flat. This, though, still leaves you with the golden trumpets of Tomorrow, or the race-to-the-finish blues racket of I’m Going Back, or the brassy jazz flourishes of I’m So Sorry (and its juxtaposition with the defiant follow-up, You’ll Be Sorry), or the title-track’s harmonica hoedown. Or a mess of other authentic-not-authentic goodness.

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