Fiona Lee Maynard & Her Holy Men (independent)
This review could start with a pithy line about Melbourne cornering the Australian market for bluesy, ballsy female vocalists but it won’t - even if it might just be true. Let’s just say that Fiona Lee Maynard and her band, The Holy Men, face stiff competition in their home city, but manage to be at the head of the pack.
You might know the singer’s name from fronting In Vivo, the outfit whose ranks included Dave Thomas (Bored!) about 15 years ago. She was also in the more mainstream powerpoppy Have A Nice Day. The Holy Men are a lot more “street level”. Think of an Antipodean Johnette Napolitano with an Aussie pub-honed band behind her.
Maynard’s husky voice is front and centre on this five track EP and that’s a good thing. It makes the music distinctive and adds character - like a weatherboard cottage on a street-full of brick veneer project homes. Maynard on bass and the redoubtable Billy Pommer (The Johnnys) on drums also make for a formidable engine room.
“Beware The Bad Bad Man” is what I’m guessing is a live signature tune that opens the record in style. James Lomas' withering guitar is running through this in all the right places.
“You Gotta Ask Me First” is a blues walk through the back blocks that switches the button to raunch. It probably goes down a treatlive but for mine it's the weakest track, musically, for mine. On the other hand, there's a distorted Maynard bassline driving through "Make Hay Whilst The Sun Shines" that's hard enough to crack eggs on.
Maynard occasionally steps aside to cede lead vocals to James Lomas and their duet on the closing "Cakes and Ginger Ale" works particularly well. Lomas has plenty of chances to show off his considerable guitar chops on “I Didn’t Think You’d Care”, a call-and-response song with '50s undertones and clean licks.
The record's been out for a little while and the band has since tweaked name to Fiona and Her Holy Men. The production is a touch home spun - which is not to say it’s bad. After a few spins, its rawness is actually an asset and any shodetcomings are a quibble. You might wonder, however, what this EP would have sounded like with the benefit of a big, fat budget.