When you think of raunchy punk and blues, Cardiff, Wales, isn’t the first locale that pops into your head as a hotbed of action. However, Welsh brothers Aled and Brenning Clifford, the duo that makes up Henry’s Funeral Shoe, make one hell of a racket. With nothing more than a guitar and drums they pump out a coarse mix of thick, overdriven and amp-fusing blues.
Donkey Jacket, the band’s second release, will unavoidably be compared to the White Stripes. It treads a familiar path, blending dirty blues-soaked riffs with a touch of acoustic country and plenty of hooky up-tempo melodies. It’s a fair enough comparison too; both bands clearly draw inspiration from the same pool of artists but Henry’s Funeral Shoe have less of an obvious pop element, at least they do on the more stomping tunes, and their punk ethos is more readily apparent. Alex Clifford’s vocals also have a more gravelled, world-weary tone than those of Jack White. In a sense he sounds more wounded, and that’s a good thing.
Obviously as a duo there are limits to what you can create, especially if you’re so steeped in a minimal chord genre like the blues, but the band exploit all of their limited resources, making full use of percussion, harp and thick-toned slide and feedbacking guitar—with a few effect pedals to add some texture. The album sounds rich and full, and it’s packed with plenty of grunt. You’d be hard pressed to guess it was just two guys bashing this out, and if you knew nothing about the band you’d be equally surprised to find this wasn’t produced in some swampy everglade.
If you’re a fan of ear-splitting, riotous blues then there are enough smoking riffs on here to keep you enthralled. “Love is a Fever”, “Be Your Own Invention”, “Mission & Maintenance” and “Gimmie Back My Morphine” are all hellishly catchy. With tumbling riffs galore they highlight the boys’ innate talent in crafting something that’ll definitely shake your ass, but that has enough depth to be appreciated on musical merits alone. While the album is packed full of storming tracks, there are also a couple of more refined numbers in here to give you a breather, and maybe to play for that special someone in your life. “Across the Sky” and “Bottom to the Top” both offer up some soulful variety—making great use of Aled’s gritty vocals.
Two guys, a drum kit and a guitar. That’s all it takes for Henry’s Funeral Shoe to craft some of the punchiest, wickedest blues I’ve heard in a long time. Nice and organic, and rough as guts in parts, these two Welsh lads make a fine old racket.