The Jujubes, Raging Moon
The Jujubes – no not the chewy sweeties (candy to you US folk), or the deciduous tree and its fruit, Ziziphus jujuba – are a talented three-piece blues band from London, England.
Ziziphus jujuba apparently grows well in mountain or desert habitats – but with the Jujubes, you’re right back in the Mississippi delta. The trees’ fruit is often used in Chinese desserts – but there’s nothing sweet and sickly about the Jujubes stripped back blues. This is raw and unadulterated traditional blues – and yet thoroughly modern. Their new album, Raging Moon, has all the ingredients of a top-notch blues record – killer slide guitar, echoes of Robert Johnson, tasty acoustic blue guitar licks and the rasping, world-weary vocals of Nikki Brooks.
In Raging Moon we get ten songs, five originals and five covers of songs by Willie Dixon, Bukka White and Big Bill Broonzy.
The album kicks off will Willie Dixon’s Wany Dang Doodle, Brooks adding just a bit more of a sinister note than Willie Dixon. It’s a great arrangement, which builds up from an acoustic riff to a more full-blooded instrumental and then pares back again. You’re immediately engaged and wanting to hear the rest of the album.
The Big Bill Broonzy track, Somebody’s Got to Go is terrific, Brooks’ slinky vocals wrapping themselves around some cool picked guitar and some even cooler slide work. Broonzy’s original version becomes even more bluesy in the hands of the Jujubes.
There are a couple of traditional songs in the offering – True Religion, covered by Eric Darkly in 1961 and often performed by Hot Tuna, becomes a slow, dark brooding number, as befits the sombre lyrics. Again, the guitar work here is great, as it is throughout the album – both Sandie Michie and Peter Sim on slide handle the songs impressively.
The overall sound is refreshingly raw, just the three members of the band, augmented by percussionist OC Thomas. The latter plays bass drum, bongos, cardboard box and washboard – which gives you some idea of the vibe going on here.
The original songs all sound fully rooted in the tradition. The first of these, Crocodile, features a heavy dose of Sim’s slide guitar and, like a good blues song should, worms its way inside you and tugs at your innards. The last, Something More, the album closer is probably the least traditional sounding song. No problem with that. But it’s in the more rootsy, bluesy songs like The Last Thing or Make Me Cry where the Jujubes really excel.
If cool, traditional sounding blues, with a modern edge is your thing – which I’m guessing if you’re reading this, it is, then you gotta check out the Jujubes. Go get yourself a copy of Raging Moon.