Blair Crimmins and the Hookers want to sell you something. But despite the name, it’s not what you might think. What they are selling is righteous old-school jazz on their new release, You Gotta Sell Something. The fourth release from the Georgia octet finds them continuing and building upon their holy Jazz trinity of Ragtime, Dixieland, and Swing.
BC&H features the best elements of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and The Squirrel Nut Zippers. With full throttle tempos and tongue in cheek lyrics, You Gotta Sell Something combines 1920s juke joint energy with 21st century sensibilities.
The title song starts off with a few chords of jazz banjo, followed by trumpet and clarinet; and right away you feel like you’ve got front row seats at the best speakeasy in town. Then with equal parts humor and cynicism, Crimmins details the secrets to musical success: “Step 1: Find a catchy phrase, one that sticks in your head for days. Step 2: Keep it short and sweet, ‘cause when you’re done you’re gonna hit repeat. Step 3: Swing with every verse and shake every last dime right out of their purse. Step 4: Grab your pen and sign right there on the dotted line.” Blair and company certainly deliver on each step.
“Beautiful Thang” follows with a jubilant, piano driven ode to love and the rapturous joy it brings. Soaring several feet off the ground, this song sounds like your first kiss felt.
“Top of the Class” is the purely physical counterpoint to the previous song. With devilish word play (“Get yourself a rhythm and do it all day. You’ll both feel better when you both get laaaa-ter in the evening when the sun goes down, you’ll wonder what the worrying was all about.”) and strutting Dixieland backbeat, Crimmins celebrates the more carnal side of affection.
“I’m Gone” delves into the Blues side of Jazz. “Hot Damn” is a stomp your feet instrumental. “Wandering Joe” incorporates Eastern rhythms or Gypsy Jazz to tell the story of a travelling musician. “In the Neighborhood” is a ragtime gossip tell-all of the local community, as Crimmins laments, “I’ve seen more than I like and I know more than I should about the people in the neighborhood.” “You’re a Pain,” is the most upbeat way I’ve ever heard to tell someone off.
The beautiful, gospel inspired “Passed Around” is an uplifting “we’re all in this together” celebration of the human condition. Using the metaphor of a dollar passed around from purchase to purchase till it finds its way back to you, Cimmins sings, “that dollar might come back for all the working that you do. It just looks a little thinner from all the hands it’s been passed through. Like the lines upon your face it’s not a fine thing to behold it. Every time you laugh, you feel, you cry; you feel a little folded.” It’s a wonderful reminder of how many lives touch ours and how many lives we, in turn, touch in this circle of life.
A fantastic album from start to finish. Blair Crimmins and the Hookers sure know how to sell something. Anyone who appreciates great jazz will certainly be buying.