Picking up where I left off with yesterday’s backgrounder, here’s a quick rundown on 11 albums from Kimberley Rew and/or very close associates. All titles credited to Rew unless otherwise indicated.
Strawberry Fair (2011)
The standout track on this irresistibly likable collection is “I’m Missing You.” Though it sports a familiar I-IV-V melody, Rew’s winning and approachable vocal and his lean, sinewy blues leads are a delight. Players include familiar names: Cave-Berry on bass and bgvox, Morris Windsor on drums. Overall, imagine a less quirky Soft Boys, more guitar showcases than Katrina and the Waves and you’ll be on track.
Technically Closer than Tooting (2012)
Sonically of a piece with its predecessor, Tooting rocks a bit harder here and there, but never in an overpowering manner. Rew’s disarming character and emphasis on songcraft wedded to peerless yet uncluttered musicianship makes this a treat. Variety is a hallmark here; “Birthday Girl” is a distant cousin of “Feelin’ Alright,” but the albums goes lots of other places: “Can’t Believe We’re Still Here” is vintage music hall fun (with kazoos!).
Healing Broadway (2013)
Rew’s once-a-year music salvos are seemingly unstoppable. He has the moxie to open this album with an instrumental, the riffy “Bexhill Blues.” But he shifts gears completely with the lovely “Purple Pyjamas.” If you didn’t know better (or read the credits) you’d likely think that there were several distinctive guitarists providing the fretwork here. Nope: it’s the wonderfully versatile Kimberley Rew. His lyrics seem drawn from real life (e.g. “My Wife Has Abandoned the Starter,” “Bundle of Boy”).
The Next Big Adventure (2014)
Rew demonstrates a dazzling facility in most any style he chooses. The Next Big Adventure opens with a go-go/surf-styled tune, “My Work Here is Done, I Must Return to My Planet.” It’s a thrill, and his sparring with saxophonist Terry Edwards is a great deal of fun. “Never Gonna Leave You” is from the “Willie and the Hand Jive” school of songwriting. Most artists this prolific demonstrate a tendency to write the same song over and over. Kimberley Rew does not suffer any such affliction; variety is a defining quality of his work.
Are we there yet Daddy? (2015)
The quality never flags. “The Cat is the Boss” is a good sampler of this set, featuring some effortless vocal harmonies from Kim and Lee. The plaintive “Now We are 63” is alluring, full of references to A.A. Milne’s work. (Rew was just a bit older than 63 when this album came out; perhaps he wrote it a few years before.) Showcasing that particularly British take on American style c&w (see also: Brinsley Schwarz) is “Loving a Lady Like You.”
Miles of Smiles (2016)
The cover may sport a kitty pic, but the spotlight track of this set is “The Dog Song.” It’s a Chuck Berry styled rocker with some funny, charming lyrics. Some judicious use of accordion works well on the jaunty “Grantchester.” Lee’s vocal harmonies and Kimberley’s assured leads are predictably superb throughout, but the whole thing is a delight.
Tribute to the Troggs by Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry (2015)
By its nature, this record is harder-edged than most of the other titles covered here. The Troggs are legendary, and Kimberley and Lee make their songs their own while remembering what’s special about the originals. “With a Girl Like You” and the harmony lead vocal of “Love is All Around” are among the best here, and the couple wisely avoids “Wild Thing,” which we didn’t really need anyway.
Spring Forward by Lee Cave-Berry (remastered 2018)
Even though Lee is very much her own artist, if you like Kimberley’s stuff, you’re sure to enjoy Lee’s as well. Hubby is all over these tracks on guitar, and there’s a nice Stonesy, gritty vibe to the entire proceedings. You’ll find a bit more acoustic texture on this disc than on most of the others discussed here, and it’s spirited and well-executed. Lee’s fetching voice is put to good effect here, less in the context of harmony and more as the lead. Special notice goes to Deni Bonet for her mesmerizing violin work on “Fire Dance.”
Enjoy the rest of your day by Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry (2018)
Even though both Kim and Lee are featured on most of these albums, it’s here in which the music sounds the closest to what I witnessed at the Cavern Pub and Club. The couple swings Louis and Keely style on “Flat Cat,” a delightful slice of jump blues/swing/early rock/what-have-you. “All the Colours” is wonderfully quirky. “Sad Case” isn’t sad at all; it’s reminiscent of Nick Lowe at his best. The homespun “Angel on Earth” is a reminder of the stylistic breadth of this musical power couple. A triumph.
Sweet to Me by Jack (2020)
Local pub band Jack launched some years ago, and Lee Cave-Berry joined in 2000. Kimberley joined in 2004. Their 2020 album features a set list heavier on classics, done in the band’s own style. “Walking the Dog” is a good sample of their approach; their cover of “Something Else” splits the difference between the original and Sid Vicious’ cover. Lee takes the lead vocal for “Roadhouse Blues.” This set is nice enough, and it likely gives a sense of what Jack is like in the pubs. Fans of Lee and/or Kim will definitely want to hear it, but it’s inevitably not the best entry point into their material.
Purple Kittens by Kimberley Rew and Lee Cave-Berry (2021)
On Purple Kittens, Kim & Lee mix it up: they write together, on their own, and they even cover a song by Robyn Hitchcock(!) in a rousing reading of the Soft Boys classic “Kingdom of Love.” Spotlight track is “Penny the Ragman,” one of Kimberley’s. But the couple are on equal footing here, and we’re all better for it.
The prodigious output continues apace; 2023’s The Krelb is the latest from Kim & Lee. Find out more (and order it!) here. And/or here.