John Cee Stannard – The “Doob Doo” Album.
13 songs – 54 minutes.
John Cee Stannard is a fascinating fellow, although his name is probably not well known to many blues fans. A founding member of the English folk group, Tudor Lodge, he has been part of the folk music scene in the UK for over 40 years. He is also a radio presenter, novelist and actor – you may have seen him (briefly) as an extra in movies such as “Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire”, “The Da Vinci Code” or “Skyfall”.
The “Doob Doo” Album is Stannard’s first solo album. It was written in 2011, when Stannard found himself taken in the direction of the blues by the nature of the songs he was writing, recorded in 2012 and released in 2013. Featuring Stannard on guitar, bass and vocals, it also features 16 different musicians providing support on vocals, electric and double bass, drums and percussion, saxophones, trumpet, trombone, banjo, piano, Hammond C3, harmonica, accordion and acoustic and National guitars. The musicians are all renowned session musicians, but even so, the result is a surprisingly coherent album, with a depth and passion that one might not necessarily expect. It is clear that everyone involved in the release loves this music and enjoys playing it. And, although it is definitely a blues album, The “Doob Doo” Album also has strong influences of Trad Jazz, soul and Latin music. Stannard wrote 10 of the 13 songs on the album himself, co-wrote one, and arranged another. “That’s My Way” was written by The Blues Band’s Gary Fletcher. And none of the songs would have sounded out of place on a recording from 70 or 80 years ago.
This music harks back to an earlier, pre-electric period, sometimes evoking the swing era with the horns featured prominently, although songs such as “Devil’s Own Store” and “Hid Behind The Door” manage to fit in delightful, short acoustic solos for the guitar, piano and harmonica.
One of the key elements that makes this album so enjoyable is Stannard’s singing voice. Unlike many British singers, Stannard does not affect an American accent when he sings. His voice is plainly English, even on a song like “Regular Guy”, which could easily be an out-take from an early Tom Waits session (other than in respect of the vocals). However, there is an openness and vulnerability to his voice that makes songs such as “That’s When I Get The Blues” curiously affecting.
A number of songs lean towards the slower end of the spectrum, but there is a drive and passion to these songs that makes them uncommonly listenable. The lyrics, as befits a man who has been writing songs for over 40 years, have a sense of maturity and perspective, so the protagonist of “Second Chance” warns the listener that “if you get a second chance to live your life again, take care that what you ask won’t lose everything”, whilst at the same time as suggesting that “every path will lead you here to me. I believe the picture always will show you and me.”
There is also a sharp wit at work on this album. It can be seen in the medley of Patrick Sky’s “Separation Blues” and Stannard’s own “Separation Blues” (no, that isn’t a typo), which contains the delightful line “Staying out all night well that was bad enough, finding your number on my cuff, well I ain’t saying no-one seen us, but that was enough to put a wall between us.” The same wit can be seen in the cover art. The CD is beautifully packaged, with a detailed lyric booklet, which dryly categorises each song as a bucket blues, a groove blues, a dinner blues, a country blues, a café blues, or a latino blues. It also has a cover that appears at first glance to be a reproduction of an old-fashioned ’78, whilst still containing the legal statement that “This album is protected by copyright so sharing, copying or downloading whilst avoiding payment is very naughty and we’d really prefer that you didn’t do it – thanks.”
For those whose tastes extend to the jazzier or swing side of the blues, The “Doob Doo” Album is highly enjoyable and warmly recommended.