With one hot solo per song, a tight band sound, the occasional bat-out-of-heck howl, and the kind of drumming you don't notice (even, unfortunately, during a solo), The Black Sorrows satisfy a sparse but happy Wednesday night crowd in the Famous Spiegeltent. There are moments when you might assume that mainstay Joe Camilleri and his latest lineup could be your average quintet of nightime rockers, daytime mid-level administrators of a non-profit, playing a weeknight slot at their hometown peanut and lager house; but then keyboardist John McAll lays down a tasty chord and Camilleri and Claude Carranza (on a Gretsch and Fender strat, respectively) ring out together the way only truly practiced, professional cats can, and you know you're in the presence of a real thumping, jangling, Mississippi-by-way-of-Melbourne rock n' roll band.
Camilleri (he sounds a lot like Van Morrison) has an incredible range – at one point he jumps a 9th without a hiccup – and he can screech like a jaguar with its bollocks in a bear trap, but if he wants to crack from the "Certified Blues" into indigoes and Pompeii reds and india ink prison tattoo blues, then he could start by listening to Billie Holiday. The band's sometimes just too tight, too composed: Camilleri hands out four bars for a solo here, eight bars there, not enough space for emotional development. Carranza does well in these short spaces – as does Camilleri on the saxophone, with a gorgeous, extraordinary tone – and they colour songs short and sweet that keep the ladies dancing through the second half of the set.
This is a band that can write, play, sing, and even sell it, but on occasion there's something missing. The Rolling Stones didn't just cover Muddy Waters, after all: if The Black Sorrows want to do more than inspire an audience sing-along, they might focus less on remaking music from "way back in the 50s when rock and roll was new," and more on making new rock and roll. [Aidan Ryan]