The Fabulous Red Diesel: Goddess The Seahorse

Hastings-based band with trumpet, guitar, flute and keyboard is humorous and ironic in bossa and swing settings

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The Fabulous Red Diesel is a UK fun foursome based on the south coast at St Leonards but seen everywhere – and thank goodness for that. The fun is in not only the irony and cheekiness of some of its songs but also in the pleasure it evidently gets from performing, as audiences can attest.

Its eighth album offers over an hour’s-worth of material, consisting of 14 charts written by leader Kat Lee Ryan, who sings them with grit, charm and self-reflection when the lyrics demand it. She also plays keyboards and flute in ways that don’t hog the platform. One of the album’s many virtues is the way it avoids over-emphasis and keeps the arrangements tight but with jazz’s on-the-spot freshness.

The insouciance is there in Beggars Would Ride, which follows Boneyard, with its complex arrangement disguised, and Groovin’ Around, one of a few bossa-driven charts and displaying a coda of slapped bass and breathy multiphonic flute. Short but sweet.

Indeed, the effects at the band’s disposal are always used sparingly, the sign of musicianly self-effacement. One thinks of the faux-brass band interval in Put That Woman Down, the sort of knees-up chart TFRD is always likely to come up with, and Bonsai – another bossa – with its trumpet ending echoing the lament at the tail of Dear Number 5, a reflective tune with something to say, like all the lyrics here. Deft touches come no more economically than in the vocal harmonising, flute solo, and the two-trumpet background of Joe Cool; the walking bass that opens and closes Summer End; and the “stop” finale and quirky piano decoration of Vessel.

The band’s coastal base probably inspired not only Vessel but also the title track. Goddess the seahorse is who (or what) made the singer assertive despite advice to the contrary. It’s a feeling repeated in Symmetry with Piaf-like self-possession. For more irony, go to Thank You, with its multi-vocal; for sad reflection to the limpid Somewhere Beautiful.

TFRD allows the listener to home in on its songs’ sentiments by keeping their instrumental clothing neat but colourful and good-looking.


Discography
Summer End; Stars; Joe Cool; Dear Number 5; Goddess The Seahorse; Bonsai; Vessel; Put That Woman Down; Symmetry; Groovin’ Around; Boneyard; Beggars Would Ride; Thank You; Somewhere Beautiful (60.07)
Kat Lee Ryan (v, f, p, kyb); Wil Lee Ryan (d); Simon Dobell (t, g); Bea Gullick (b, t). St Leonards, UK, January 2023.
Priestess Records