NETHERLANDS: Shamanaid - MY BABY
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
A wide range of styles come together superbly in this wonderful album
What initially struck me about Dutch-New Zealander band My Baby (strange name for a band, I agree) is how retro and yet how modern they sound. They mix blues, funk, country, electronic music with modern production in a way that is rather fascinating. It shouldn’t really work, and yet it does, creating a sound unlike any other I have come across. The band formed in 2012 by sibling duo Joost and Cato Van Dijck, who are the drummer and lead singer respectively, alongside New Zealander Daniel Johnston on guitar. Having been spotted by the manager for Larry Graham (that’s the pioneering bassist for Prince as well as Sly and the Family Stone to you and me), they recorded their first album in 2013, with their follow up effort, Shamanaid, coming in 2015. To me, the album shows a band in sure footing, knowing what they do best and doing it well – it just so happens that what they do best is an unusual fusion of almost Deep South country music alongside funk, blues, and modern pop. Despite hailing from very different places, you are put in mind of the swamp rock of a band like Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Mississippi delta blues stylings of musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters in its guitar playing.
“This could be real roots rock by grizzled old American bluesmen and women, were it not for the modern production styles and the cheeky additions of funk and soul inflections”
The two opening tracks firmly cement what My Baby are all about. They show the central dichotomy behind their playing. Seeing Red is an upbeat, guitar heavy song, whereas Meet Me at the Wishing Well is a slower, more melancholic piece that is steeped in a Southern Gothic sensibility. Both are excellent, and show that My Baby (I still can’t get used to that name, sorry) have a real diversity in their talents. The former makes you want to drink and fight, the latter makes you want to sit down and reflect on life. Cato Van Dijck’s vocals are alternately punchy and vibrant or soft and sensuous, fitting the moods of the songs perfectly, whether it be a ballad or a rock song. And yet, perhaps the best song on the album, Mary Morgan, is a mixture of those two competing vibes. The drums and guitar licks are incredibly catchy and funky, yet the rootsy, ZZ Top swagger is never far away, and its that charm that makes me like this record so much. It almost feels like you could have discovered this in a record shop in Memphis, Tennessee, as some kind of relic from a long-lost band from years ago.
There is a lot of fun to be had here, and the music is interesting and varied to boot, and it plays on my own loves of blues rock and funk. It is one of those albums that is both catchy and radio-friendly as well as smart and interesting. There aren’t many bands I can think of that have a similar sound to this (the only thing I can really think of that is somewhat similar is Freedom by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton which was featured on the soundtrack to the Quentin Tarantino flick Django Unchained) and they make their disparate influences their own. They sound authentic. This could be real roots rock by grizzled old American bluesmen and women, were it not for the modern production styles and the cheeky additions of funk and soul inflections. On paper, it looks like a mess. In reality, it’s glorious, forging their own sound in a way that feels organic and well thought out. You can tell that these are good musicians who know what they are doing, and everything they tinker with has a purpose, it is not just for show.