Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Imelda May's music will always predate us and will continue to do so more and more as the years pass by. Her music predates the woman herself. It's out of a different time, a time when you could buy a delicious piece of homemade, yes, homemade apple pie at any diner anywhere for 10-cents. You could let your children walk around and play in the streets with little concern for poachers and perverts. It comes from a generation multiple generations gone, when things were simpler and small communities everywhere lit up on Friday and Saturday nights with dances and public drinking parties, where everyone swung everyone else because everyone knew everyone and that's just what you did. So much of May's smoky and bluesy country and rockabilly feels like nights at juke joints that I've never known, nor will ever know, but the images that they bring to mind are of those spots that we've erected in our heads thanks to Hollywood and old movies. The women are dolled up, draped in gorgeous flowing shirts, their hair pinned up into cute bobs and everyone is wearing slick-bottomed dancing shoes and just out on the floor breaking into dripping sweats from the first second the band - Imelda May's band, in particular - starts its playing. The lights are drawn down to drowsy levels, but all eyes are on the stage and the floor, with the periphery blurred out, the edges sliced from consideration as it's just the place for recovery, catching breath and hailing down a bartender to convince him or her to take your money and slide you some booze. Then, it's right back into the fray, to get excited and winded once again. And this is a process that could go on for hours and hours, without a single desire to ever have it stop - forced into stopping when the band plays its final song and the lights come on for good. Imelda May, who performed on this year's telecast of the Grammys with Jeff Beck and is currently out on the road with the legend, takes us into these swinging and exhaustive equations where the feelings take over, where you just feel it and you feel it some more. It just gets in through your pores and takes over. The Irish-born and UK-living singer takes us into these sensations that speak to us in eye contact, facial expressions and body language, while still speaking to us as clearly and loudly via her songs' melodies and patterns of movement and electric abandon. We're swept into these juke joints of yesteryear, where none of the boys or dames have to take a walk outside to enjoy a cigarette or cigar. They stay where they are, light up and guiltlessly exhale the smoke up to the lights and the heavens. The room's clouded with it and it's almost an atmosphere that feels more alive and teeming with energy because of it - because of the verve that May throws into all of her songs - songs about hardened men and women, the bad boys, the bad women, the freaky things that all of them do. She affects them with a sometimes drowsy, but more often fired up vamping of fire and sparks that sets them off, immediately taking the temperature up to numbers associated with the dog days of summertime. May finds us - or is it, makes us - feeling primed for a sexy, dastardly night of daring to forget some of our morals and that we're normally too self-conscious to get out there and dance ourselves drunk.