Old time music is actually pretty popular in New Orleans if you know where to find it. Johnny Angel has been strumming and swinging for decades in the city despite not indulging in brass or jazz genres, and his brand of western-style swinging country is hot, hot, hot! Johnny Angel's latest LP Step Aside is a rollicking romp of six songs that are each unique, danceable, and just plain fun.
The first song and title track "Step Aside" is a good, old fashioned country song complete with very prominent steel guitars and jolly fiddle accompaniment. Johnny, who is a fantastic lyricist, croons about loving people for who they, or you can step aside. He says it in such a cool and confident manner, like when he sings, "If you're doubting all my schemes, trying to kill my hopes and dreams, step aside."
The next tune "Black Ball" really captured my attention. It's a really cool, somewhat devious-sounding song. I feel like Tom Waits could easily cover this song. "Welcome to my Black Ball," Johnny sings as the band performs a sexy, noir beat. "(In Loving Memory of) Betty" is a departure from its predecessor. Fiddle player Mike Harvey is truly playing your heart strings for this loving serenade dedicated (presumably) to Johnny's mother Betty. "Betty" is a classic country ballad that will make you long for quiet summer nights in the middle of nowhere.
"Here and Now" is another song that really captured my attention because it sounds like a lovely declaration of adoration at first, until you realize that it's about loving yourself more than anyone. It's evident in the first line "Here and now I'll make my stand to stop your abuse." I think this is a good bad breakup song, and we all need one at some point. The following song "I Sing Tis of Thee" is more praiseful, and it definitely makes you want to grab your partner (or someone else's partner) and have a slow dance.
What's a country album without a heartbreak song? "The Hardest Part" is that for Step Aside. Johnny asks for his long gone lover to not give him any hope that there will be a reconciliation. This song has such lovely steel guitar and fiddle. And I won't tell you where it is, but I like that there's a hidden track on this album (something that is going by the wayside as CDs decrease in popularity.
Johnny Angel and Helldorado's Step Aside is such a good representation of New Orleans old time that deserves its moment in the sun.