Billy Carter Album Review – Dirty Seoul Blues
Anyone new to the music scene in Seoul will ask me “What’s the best band in Seoul?” and my answer has always been Billy Carter. A year and a half ago I was new to Korea and was asking the same question about the music scene and always getting the same answer from people who had been here longer. Billy Carter.
Billy Carter is a three piece rockabilly/blues/garage band featuring Jiwon Kim on vocals and melodica, Jina Kim on guitar and harmonica, and the only male member Hyun Joon Lee on drums. Originally they were just a two piece before adding Hyun Joon to the rhythm section and kicking up their sound a notch and really tearing up the scene here in Seoul. I had seen them many times over the past year and was always entertained but there was no album to take home with me until recently. Their shows were always loud, raucous rock n roll shows with two badass women that could outplay and outdrink anybody. What’s not to like? Well my wishes to take Billy Carter home with me (not in that way, sicko) finally happened with the release of their new EP.
While this EP only has 5 songs on it there is no waiting around before we’re introduced to Billy Carter with the pounding steady drums on the first track “침묵 (Silence)”, before the Jina unleashes the first distorted rattling guitar chord, distorted and dirty. She then launches into a classic rock n roll riff contorted and filthy from the distortion but every noise and picked string is precise. Then the sultry and powerful voice of Jiwon comes creeping in with what reminds me of a refined and sexy Janis Joplin. Pure gritty, grimy, rock n roll sex. We’re treated to a crescendo of a chorus with a great hook and Jiwon unleashes her voice a bit more. The tiger is off the leash and there’s not more controlling it. Throughout Hyun Joon’s drums keep things steady and pounding though Jina’s guitar noodles in and out of noisy distortion and ridiculous rock n roll guitar riffs until the song goes quiet before launching into a psychobilly freakout outro that would make The Reverend smile. Pure napalm to start the EP.
The third track is “Time Machine” and starts with a bluesy harmonica, lonely and full of reflection before a slow and steady pounding blues shuffle comes in on drums. The harmonica is replaced with a raunchy blues guitar progression and the sorrowful bluesy voice of Jiwon proclaiming how a time machine could fix things in the past. In a bit of honest vulnerability she sings about having a time machine to go back and tell her father not to cheat on his wife. If he doesn’t cheat on his wife then his daughter will be able to believe the men in her life. Throughout the song Jina’s guitar gets raunchier and more distorted as the song builds to a crescendo. The drums get heavier, Jiwon’s vocals become more insistent and almost desperate while still showing intense emotions and power, the harmonica returns with some soulful backing before the song collapses in a heap with a classic blues ending full of reverb and Jiwon’s ridiculous vocals. You’ll need a cigarette after this song.
The EP wraps up with two more upbeat songs with the straight old school country song “봄 (Springtime)” that sounds like something between Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. Twangy guitars, sweet female duet on vocals, and splashes of distorted guitars and heavy drums to accentuate the modern influences. “You Go Home”, the last track on the EP, is a straight up rockabilly song that mixes the raunch of the Cramps and the technical skills of the Stray Cats into a fun and rockin’ song about drinking.
I give this album a perfect score: 5 out of 5 Stars
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