Imagine yourself in a smoky bar, with a siren voice filtering over the clatter of whiskey on the rocks, a drunken clamor, and slapping drumbeats. Listening to Imelda May brings you somewhere like this, her rockabilly drawl harkening back to the dastardly sound of some ‘50s juke-joint, where even the most inhibited would finally dare to let loose. It’s a sound and experience that’s characterized most of her releases to date—from 2009’s roaring Love Tattoo, to even her latest Life Love Flesh Blood, where she forgoes some of her riotous rhythms for equally alluring, stomping ballads.
Having lent her powerhouse vocals to the likes of Jeff Beck, Lou Reed, and Smokey Robinson, May’s accomplishments have often been weighed by her relation to others— most recently, her success was lauded by reports of Bob Dylan being a fan. Today, July 10, is the Irish-born songstress’s birthday, and in honor of her big day, we recognize Imelda May for her own biting contributions to the industry over the past two decades.
Here at Paste, we have highlights from her 2010 Daytrotter Studio recordings in Rock Island, IL, to listen to below. Hear the live session for yourself, and revel in the bluesy pomp that makes Imelda May one of rockabilly’s most brilliant remaining torchbearers.