September 12, 2022

This is clearly a band that is confident in its material; they know they don’t need to go for the gut-wrenching vocals or that Gary Moore solo to create an impact.

Let’s start with a spot of English, shall we? So, the guy who used to drive around on a float and deliver fresh milk to your doorstep every morning, was called a milkman. And if you have a bunch of them together, they are called milkmen, spelt as one word not two. So, I’m not sure if the name of this band is a typo or whether they just considered themselves to be men made of milk. But, the milk reference brought to my mind Dr. Feelgood’s hit Milk And Alcohol, which is quite fitting since that’s the band that The Milk Men have been most frequently compared to. So, perhaps their name is a tribute to that classic song? Anyway, whatever the origin of the name, the group is a very typical British rhythm and blues band, and Spin The Bottle is their fourth album. The band certainly seems to take a step into different and broader territory this time around and that’s hinted at indirectly on their website which states that ‘The Milk Men is a band on the blues circuit made up from the cream of British R’n’B talent and pedigree’. So, not described as a blues band, despite being on the blues circuit, and not described as a rhythm and blues band despite being made up of the cream of British rhythm and blues talent! Elsewhere they describe themselves more mundanely as a blues rock band and that description pretty well sums them up.

Don’t worry, the music isn’t as serious as this (photo: Rob Blackham)

So, if we take a spin of the proverbial bottle to explore the new songs on this album, then the track Adelaide would be a good place to start. It’s a fine, upbeat and infectiously cheerful acoustically driven piece with a country feel to it. Jamie Smy’s vocals are striking and have the raw edge to them of early Rod Stewart. Think of Take It Easy by The Eagles being sung by Rod Stewart and you’d be pretty close to the spirit of this one. That ‘infectiously cheerful’ description applies to quite a few songs on this album, with opener Driving It, being another good example. It’s a pretty raucous twelve bar blues piece that you might want to dismiss as predictable and unoriginal but you’ll end up singing along to it by the end!

So, let’s spin the bottle again to try and find the real blues side of the band, shall we? You only need to look at the track listing to know which track to play. Yes, it’s Sing The Blues (has anyone ever totted up how many blues songs have the word blues in the title?). Anyone expecting epic Gary Moore soloing will be disappointed despite a nice little flurry towards the end by guitarist Adam Norsworthy (ex Mustang). Instead, Norsworthy mostly keeps to gentle guitar picking in support of what is a slow dreamy blues number. It’s the classic late-night smoky jazz bar piece. Smy’s vocals are again impressive, as is the backing from drummer Mike Roberts (ex Pirates) and bassist Lloyd Green (also with a Pirates link since his father, Mick Green, was guitarist in that group). What is also memorable about the track is the understated delivery and interplay between members of the band that means you hear every single detail of each instrument. This is clearly a band that is confident in its material; they know they don’t need to go for the gut-wrenching vocals or that Gary Moore solo to create an impact.

In many ways, Sing The Blues is the emotional heart of the album, but if we spin the bottle again then we get the rockier side of the band too. The single Cheap Seats is another strong infectious piece built around a jaunty little riff. Things get heavier on Highway Woman which has a ‘60s psychedelic feel to it, perhaps because of the similarity to Hendrix’s Foxy Lady. Go Go Baby, the first single to be released of this set, is a little more routine but listen out for the fantastic bass playing of Green that drives the song along wonderfully well. In the ten songs that make up this album, there’s also time for a tribute to The Ramones in Gabba Gabba Hey, and the tongue-in-cheek Fabulous with its throwback ‘50s backing vocals. In such an upbeat album you wouldn’t expect room for any maudlin thoughts but spin that bottle again and there’s the album closer, the ballad Bad Seed, a distinctly darker piece lyrically that probably contains Norsworthy’s most impressive guitar soloing on the album.

Rhythm and blues bands doing the pub circuit are ten a penny. It’s easy to entertain a few inebriated punters but to come up with such diverse and entertaining music requires quality, and The Milk Men certainly have that quality. Go on: give it a spin!