IMMY REGAL & THE ROYALS release their second album, Late Night Chicken, on Lunaria Records – September 25th, 2020, featuring a guest appearance by kora player Diabel Cissokho.
The title of Jimmy Regal & The Royals’ new album proclaims both the band’s love of the roots music culture of the southern United States, and their less salubrious relationship with the fast food of their native South London. To cement their standing in the fine tradition of Old Skool Thames Delta Rhythm & Blues – stretching from The Rolling Stones to Dr Feelgood – Late Night Chicken was produced by Simon Trought at Soup Studio, which is situated in a former lightship on the banks of the muddy Thames. Guitarist [Corin} CJ Williams notes – ”When the tide was down, we played on a slight slope; come evening time, the tide pops the boat back up and everything starts rocking.”
The band’s self-titled debut established them as a blazing, blues-infused trio, characterised by Joff Watkins’ dazzlingly powerful harmonica-playing, Williams’ versatile, mesmeric riffing – built on the unshakeable foundations of New Orleans and North Mississippi – and Sammy Samuels’ reverberant, in-the-pocket drums. Late Night Chicken exponentially expands their horizons, featuring song-writing skills which were only glimpsed on their first record.
The title track lays down an all-engines-gunning, statement of intent: Williams elucidates – “My theory is there are no bad chicken songs, from Best Dressed Chicken in Town to Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens to Chicken Strut, Chickentown, C-H-I-C-K-E-N … etc. Chicken shops pretty much define South London. My favourite being the awful ‘Ferfect Fried Chicken’ in Forest Hill – they obviously got sued by Perfect Fried Chicken and very visibly stuck an F over the P.”
You’re unlikely to hear a better three-track opening salvo this year, as the alternately brooding and galloping, Sun’s Gonna Rise follows …Chicken; while on the swaggering, My Confession, Joff becomes an entire horn section.
Regal Alley, a huge instrumental, kicks off with massively distorted harmonica and then gives CJ and Sammy a chance to shine. Named after a cut-through in Bromley in deepest south-east London, the band explain – “We’ve got a picture of us under the Regal Alley sign. We now want snaps outside Regal Wines, Regal Launderette, Regal Cinema etc. A fight once broke out in front of us as we played the track at The Pelton in Greenwich, it gets the blood pumping.”
That’s All It Took is a groove-driven dancer which sounds like it could have been recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s New Orleans studio, or at Chicago’s Chess. It could have been an R&B hit in 1961 or become a roots-radio favourite in 2021.
The collection includes three covers – Junior Kimbrough’s All Night Long (another nod to the trance-blues vibe of the Mississippi Hill Country); Howlin’ Wolf’s Commit A Crime: and Lights Out, a slice of Louisiana rock ‘n’ roll co-written by Dr John. But the originals are where it’s at, and Can’t Cry No More is a key track, showing the true breadth of the band’s influences and capabilities. It features globally renowned kora player Diabel Cissokho. Watkins has played on Diabel’s albums and guested with him at BBC sessions for Cerys Matthews and Radio 3’s Music Planet. Now Cissokho returns the favour. “We recorded the basic track with Alan Hughes on djembe. He is a fantastic drummer, who played with Steve Morrison for years. We sent the track to Diabel’s home in Senegal and it came back brilliant.”
Despite that particularly international collaboration, the majority of what you hear is live in the studio with minimal overdubs. The band have the experience, skill and intensity to deliver under recording conditions and set a room on fire live. Scion of the premier North Mississippi blues dynasty, Cedric Burnside, is a big fan after they played a gig together, while Brit-blues guitar-wizard Ramon Goose is another champion, who also sits in with them on occasion. Gig and festival promoters were queuing to book the band before the current enforced hiatus. The band are raring to go, and with the release of Late Night Chicken, the future looks tasty.