Kokomo: Sunset Claws (Boatshed/digital outlets)

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Turn the Lights Down Low
Kokomo: Sunset Claws (Boatshed/digital outlets)

It's been a long time between new albums for this long-running Bay of Plenty band and their gritty blues-grounded pop-rock, country-rock and dark ballads.

Three years ago they offered a damn fine career retrospective with Batten Down the Hatches and you might have thought that was acting as fine farewell . . . but no.

Here they come again – five years on from their last studio outing Bigger Than Brando – with eight originals (most by mainman Derek Jacombs) alongside Bob Dylan's Dignity which is given a snaky, menacing boogie reading and the Goldcoast Singer's early Sixties folk-poke Plastic Jesus.

Kokomo – Kokomo Blues way back last century – amass considerable vocal and musical firepower with horns (Robbie Laven, Sonia Bullot), slide guitar (Jacombs, Mike Kirk), multi-instrumentalist Nigel Masters (who wrote the droll and increasingly funny speak-singalong Don't Take My Car) and harmonica player Grant Bullot (among others, including backing vocalists).

There's adult stuff here of course, as on the jut-jawed but pained truths of Trying to Get to Sleep at Night (“now she's gone you can do anything that you want to do/there's no one here for you to fight . . .”), there's a Nawlins funky feel tapped for World's Most Jealous Girl, and bristling but constrained urban rock for Sometimes I Don't Recognise This Place Anymore.

As always, despite their musical headlights pointed towards the US, Kokomo are a Kiwi band and the opener here is Holed Up in Karamea about some crooked Auckland banker having to head out for the remote West Coast town.

Over the years Kokomo have performed or toured with the likes of Midge Marsden, Shona Laing, Dragon, Hammond Gamble and Barry Saunders, all fellow travellers on these corrugated rough roads.

Understated stories or broad brush strokes, wit, characters and a killer closing instrumental in the spooky swamp-goes-artistic Turn the Lights Down Low.

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