Danny and his Champ’ chaps have always been hard to pin down generically. Americana is always a label which raises its head and indeed they are, to a degree but not in the way that we normally associate with the term. Rather than the rhinestone, country-esque flavours that normally sit under such a title they have a much wider lens, one that takes in a more soulful, jazz-hearted and occasionally heartland rock sound putting them somewhere on a line connecting Tom Petty with the much underrated Buffalo Clover. Folk? Certainly, but again in a more textured way than your average finger in the ear folk police or the frantic, one chord banjo thrashing that Mumford and the Whale seemed to inexplicably popularise. Pop? Indeed, in the way that anything this infectious and harmonious can be deemed pop, not capital P pop, but certainly in the popular canon.
Blending a ragged street soul, rootsy juke box r’n’b, old time music hall, blissed out blues, country rock and a host of other rootsy flavours, they mix classic, timeless sounds with a contemporary delivery that makes for a great album. Horn sections blare as if before walls of Jericho, Hammond organs ooze cool, pulsing basses and concise backbeats drive the groove and guitar licks search for that lost chord, whilst anyone in the music’s path can’t help but boogie, swing, sway and strut.
It is the sound of truck stops blending into back street Chicago blues clubs which in turn become the sound of a rocking chair creaking on a back porch as the screen door slams, Mary’s dress sways and there is a distinct possibility that Roy Orbison is playing on the radio. But being an Old World take on the New World sound it neatly avoids the clichés and finds it’s own mid-Atlantic middle ground.
It is the sound of an alternative, underground path that music took when it had the chance to turn mainstream, musicians playing the right card rather than the obvious one. It is the sound of a midnight ritual designed to re-animate the zombie corpse of the muse of music that mattered, still matters and will continue to matter, long after the current vacuous pop anthem singer-songwriter wannabe has returned to their day job where the main concern is asking the customer if they want fries with that!
Sadly the modern pop picker probably only has access to the glories of the past via modern cash-ins such as the likes of that pub landlady of pop, Adele, and her false retro posturing. Even if this wasn’t the case, Danny and The Champions of the World would still be important to the cause, but the current bandwagoning and wholesale plundering of the past going on around them makes their brand of modern-retro classic essential as a torch to be kept burning.