The latest long-playing gramophone record by vintage party animals The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band goes down very well indeed with Tim Hughes

  • The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band
  • Party Seven
  • Jump Steady

Over the past five years Oxford’s Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band have gone from local heroes to national treasures.

A fast-living, hard-partying seven-piece, the lads have succeeded in turning a dated, largely-forgotten, and certainly unfashionable, genre, zapping it back to life with brass, string and piano-fuelled adrenaline and switching on a new generation to the wonders of traditional New Orleans-style rhythm and blues.

Virtuoso musicians to a man, they certainly get plenty of practice, with barely a night off. Indeed recent shows have seen them delighting crowds in venues as diverse as Ronnie Scotts, The Royal Albert Hall, Glastonbury Festival, our own Jercho Tavern and The Cellar - where I first saw them driving a youthful crowd of indie-rock fans jiving into a swinging frenzy.

Party Seven is the band’s second long player and sees them broadening their sound from Southern fried American jump-blues to something which while equally raucous, embraces their English, even Oxfordshire roots - while also referencing growly call and response blues, Mardi Gras jazz and calypso.

The title is a witty nod to Watney’s notoriously dodgy 1960s brew. But while the beer was bad, this fizzes and sparks like an over-shaken bottle of Krug Champagne, and is equally sure to kick-start the good-times.

The songs sound old-fashioned and vaguely familiar, and therein lies the genius, for all are freshly written by frontman Stewart Macbeth. At once mindful of their r’n’b heritage, they flash a rascally smirk at the past with such tunes as opener Birdman of Barley Mow, the quick-stepping Matassa’s Ice Cream Parlour (a reference to their swift-fingered guitarist Carlo Matassa), Nancy Mitford Disco and, best of all the swaggering Eynsham Witches (itself a joke at the expense of Stewart’s former home village).

Yes it’s fun - and sometimes funny, but the songwriting and lyrics are fiercely intelligent and the instrumentation heartwarming, uplifting and simply stunning in its taught delivery. If you’re a fan of jazz, jive, swing and old-time r’n’b you’ll adore it. If you’re not, I urge you to listen - and may even bet you a bottle of the band’s own Rabbit Foot Cider that you’ll be captivated.