by Fred Mills
The long, sometimes-illustrious, sometimes-checkered career of former Swell Maps/Jacobites savant Nikki Sudden resumes on the first Sudden studio album in more than five years. With Sudden and his Last Bandits draping themselves in pirate attire for the sleeve and booklet photos, the music is appropriately swashbuckling, bolstered by such telling song titles as “Treasure Island,” “Highway Girl,” “High And Lonesome” and “Stay Bruised.”
The music? Treasure Island kicks off on a hi-nrg note with the Chuck Berry-by-way-of-Keef barrelhouse rocker “Looking For A Friend” — listen closely and you’ll detect the talents of ex-Faces Ian McLagan on ivories and Sudden’s old Jacobites cohort Dave Kusworth on guitar. McLagan also turns up (on organ) for the Mott the Hoople-ish “Fall Any Further” and a gospel/Memphis soul number called, appropriately enough, “When The Lord.” Other notable guests hop aboard the Bandits schooner, among them former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor (the slide guit-inflected “Kitchen Blues” electrifies a slew of classic Robert Johnson motifs) and pedal steel ace B.J. Cole (who helps the Bandits dock outside of Bakersfield for country twanger “Break-Up”). It’s still Sudden’s show, however; he continues to mine a rich vein of influences ranging from Dylan, Lou Reed and Neil Young to Richards, Marc Bolan and Johnny Thunders. Over the years his signature vocal sneer/drawl has become more refined and nuanced, but, as evidenced by the boozy, woozy, bluesy vibe of Treasure Island, he’s hardly heading into middle age with the intention of hanging up his saber and musket.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.