It’s a surreal feeling, preparing to write a review for a new album by Dr Feelgood just days after the announcement of Wilko Johnson’s death. While Wilko’s recent health issues have been well documented, quite literally, his passing was a shock. For myself and so many others, he was an influence and the heart of the original line up.

That said, the current line up have achieved the feat of releasing an album of eleven new songs, all original compositions, which I believe is a first for the group. I admit that I’ve not paid close attention to their recent releases, but on hearing ‘Don’t Pull Your Punches’ on Spotify, my ears pricked right up. Something familiar here, a bit more muscle and intention than expected. Checking their website, I saw that guitarist Gordon Russell has rejoined the group, which goes some way to explaining it. No disrespect to anyone else, but he was always a class act; ‘Doctor’s Orders’ was great largely due to his playing.

So, he and vocalist Robert Kane have written a whole set of originals, from the addictive aforementioned tune, onto the more bluesy ‘Put The Blame On Me’ with its slide riff and harmonica. The album pitches its sound perfectly between Russell’s original sound whilst incorporating both styles of Wilko and Gypie. Put simply, it’s like they’ve rediscovered the fire in their belly. ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is’ wouldn’t shame Mr Brilleaux, with its Canvey Delta strut, and ‘Damn Right I Do’ is like a tip of the hat to Mr Mayo. Class. It’s quite a shock.

Kevin Morris and Phil Mitchell hold down a tight rhythm section, as expected, which shines on the Wilko-flavoured ‘Take A Second Look’. It only slows down for ‘Blues Me’ and ‘I Need A Doctor’, but, crucially, the quality doesn’t drop. ‘Mary Ann’ sounds like you’ve always known it, the head starts nodding, and it brings a smile. Kane never tries to sound like Brilleaux, and his style suits the songs. ‘Inside Out’ should get your feet shuffling, simple but effective, while the instrumental ‘Last Call’ finishes things off in style.

After the first listen, I had to play it again. This album really is worthy of the name Dr Feelgood, and I don’t say that lightly. My Wilko portrait tattoo is testament to that. Sometimes life provides a pleasant surprise, just when you need it. It’s been a bittersweet week, but the Feelgoods have an album to be proud of.

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Author: Martin Chamarette