PAUL ANSELL (By Shaun Mather)
One of the finest vocalists on the rockabilly circuit today is the Number Nine frontman, Paul Ansell. His voice is a lovely blend of Elvis Presley and Charlie Rich - now that ain't bad I'm sure you agree. Such is the quality of his voice that he's been the chosen vocalist for Scotty Moore and Union Avenue on their last few tours. Their forthcoming tour this next month again has Ansell upfront.
Paul Ansell started his career with the r'n'b group, the Blue Rhythm Boys. Their album At Last was my first introduction to him, buying the album after the rave reviews Steve Ansley gave it in Now Dig This. However good the BRB's were, it's his work as the leader of Number Nine that has made his name. Formed in 1993, they recently celebrated their 10th Anniversary with a two year deal with Alpina Records. The band specialises in originals from Ansell and covers of less obvious material like Hey Joe or The Passenger. As he points out on his website www.no9rockin.com, "I wanted to play all the stuff I liked, and not be restricted by what people wanted a rockin band to play. In '93 the musical boundaries were a lot more narrow than now, and playing Hey Joe, or Red Light, was a big no no." Their live show is dynamic and though the band has changed personnel over the years, they've all been top-notch musicians. The first time I saw them was a couple of years ago at Hemsby and the interplay between Ansell and guitarist Malcolm Chapman was sensational. Ansell's delivery was brilliant, and from the moment he launched in Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town, I was hooked.
Nowadays the band consists of Paul Ansell on vocals and Rhythm Guitar, Antonio Coni on lead guitar, Mark Pennington on bass and Ricky Hughes on drums. If the band is in your area check them out, or go and see him fronting Scotty Moore. The other option is to buy one of the band's many cracking albums. Best introductions to the band would be:
Sweet Inspirations - An Elvis concept album. Not meaningless covers of Hound Dog and Blue Suede Shoes, this is a well thought-out album. The contents range from less familiar covers across the three decades, as well as songs he never recorded commercially or was rumoured to have cut. There's also a few that Elvis heard as demos and even some where they second guess what the King would have sounded like if he'd cut them. Pick of the album - Don't Forbid Me. The Memphis Flash was sent the demo of this but passed it up, much to the delight of Boppin' Boone who scored a massive hit with it. Elvis did give a hint to how it suited him during a jam session with some mates in December '56. Ansell's version here is stunning, as close as he's ever sounded to Elvis.
Number Nine - The band's debut first saw the light of day on Rockhouse records but is now readily available on the Swedish My Way label, with a couple of tasty bonus cuts. Amazingly, the whole thing was cut in just two days in Bath, and until the recent release of Countryfied, was their most rewarding album. It's the album which defined their style and it's most inspired moments are as good as any modern band has ever laid down. Pick of the album - If I Ever. Any song that mentions Memphis, automatically gets my attention, but this acousticly driven number is a modern classic. To be pick song of this album was no mean feat!
Countryfied - This is my favourite Number Nine so far. Without exception, the numbers allow the band freedom to play in their inimitable style, and Ansell sounds more confident than on any previous outing. Take for instance the opener, a cover of Nilsson's Everybody's Talking, he sounds great, giving it the upturned collar snarl. Pick of the album - Relax Amigo. A brilliant laid back Ansell original on which he adds a nice touch on harmonica. Possibly his best vocal performance to date!
A great performer that can hopefully go from strength to strength. For our American and European shakers who may have never seen Ansell live, I suppose the closest modern act that sounds like him vocally is the great and much missed Danny Lee Spears of the wonderful Go Cat Go.
More info: http://www.rockabillyhall.com/NumberNine.html
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