Talkin’ ’bout the Claudettes…
PRESS FOR DANCE SCANDAL AT THE GYMNASIUM!:
FRANK GUTCH JR, NO DEPRESSION Holy Mackerel…I hear so many levels of what I consider amazing creativity…The Claudettes give me that same rush I get every time I hear Gruppo Sportivo…this album will end up on a very special list at the end of the year…I hear touches of Jerry Lee Lewis at his most manic…of cinema…of multiple genres wrapping around one another…These guys are the B-movies of the music world—maybe not understood now, but in the future, the kings and queens of the universe!
FRED MILLS, BLURT The quartet…musters more per-capita energy across these dozen tunes than most any garage combo you’d care to mention…epic in feel…cinematic…a kind of cross between Dr. John-styled N’awlins rock and Krautrock-laced psychedelic punk….a musical magician’s act, primarily based around hi-nrg blues-jazz compositions for piano, bass, drums, and vocals, and a helluva lot of fun.
BILL BENTLEY’S BANDSTAND, THE MORTON REPORT They’ve got firepower to spare, a bushel of original songs…that can be detonated at will, and in lead singer Berit Ulseth someone that sounds like they’ve been waiting their whole life to front this band. There is simply no way to lose…a place not often visited these days by rock & rollers….These are a dozen songs played for keeps…guaranteed to turn everything from a gymnasium for juveniles to a geriatrics ward into a hothouse of delirious delight. Wear it out.”
GARY GRAFF, BILLBOARD The Claudettes begin a whole new era with Dance Scandal at The Gymnasium! The 12-song set showcases a different lineup of the band…but that’s only made the Claudettes’ distinct and idiosyncratic blend—punk, blues, R&B, rockabilly, some jazz—more potent.
BILL KOPP, MUSOSCRIBE They look like a jazz trio and vocalist; they sound not at all like that…I can’t think of another group that combines barrelhouse piano and female chanteuse vocals with heavily-effected electric guitar and slamming drums…draws as much from hard and psychedelic rock as it does from N’awlins piano boogie…you must listen to the Claudettes…I liked these guys when they started out, and I think I love them now.
LOUDER THAN WAR (Manchester, UK) A magnificent melange of masterful musicianship and multifarious melodies…as infectious as it is eclectic…start with some Delta blues, add a bit of old-time jazz/swing, sprinkle on some rockabilly guitar here and there and add a smattering of punk attitude….The music is joyous, a celebratory fusion of the best of the different styles that make up the melting pot that is “Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium!”
THE SECOND DISC The Chicago group…introduces vocalist Berit Ulseth’s smoky stylings….blends crunchy riffs with rhythm and blues, sixties-style pop and soul, and plenty of attitude….The sound is raw and immediate….This Scandal boasts punk spirit, earworm melodies, and a neo-retro sound that’s loaded with appeal.
THE VINYL DISTRICT The Claudettes have been tagged as punk-blues, but on this CD immediately connect as something other/more than growled-out Willie Mabon covers slathered in amp gristle. If steeped in tradition, the Claudettes aren’t a replication (or, as said, a mere dirtying up) of it, instead exuding comfort with contemporary motions (Mark Neill produced) as new vocalist Berit Ulseth shines, especially on ‘Pull Closer to Me’ and ‘Death and Traffic.’ Iguana’s skills are fully showcased on the title track. A-
TROY MICHAEL, INNOCENT WORDS The first album for the Claudettes to feature their touring band…pays off handsomely….featuring raw and unencumbered musicianship…the 12-track album features the soul of the ’60s, psychobilly punk of the early ’80s and vaudevillian blues. Like an angel’s voice hovering over the music is one of the band’s multiple singers, Berit Ulseth. (She) has a booming voice, but is able to reel it into a soft sensual tone as she commands your attention….One of the most entertaining and unique albums of this year.
DETROIT METRO-TIMES Psychobilly might be an unfamiliar term to some, but when describing Chicago cabaret rockers the Claudettes, it’s pretty damn accurate….The sultry, retro moodiness captured on the band’s latest record sums up what makes the Claudettes’ twisted ragtime vibe stand out from your typical revivalists….The Claudettes are well versed in whimsy, and throwing listeners for a loop.
GRANT BRITT, NO DEPRESSION A spacey mix of themes, styles, and genres…offering up a mash-up of Fess and Tuts Washington carnival barrelhouse boogie. But The Claudetttes never do anything straight up, so Iguana and his cohorts stir in a Middle Eastern vibe as well courtesy of the ghostly ululations of vocalist Ulseth….Whatever else he brings into the equation, Iguana can’t stay away from Fess too long, paying him instrumental homage on the title cut. But Ulseth takes this one out of the New Orleans streets and into a Middle Eastern casbah with her haunting moans.
IMPOSE MAGAZINE Sets the stage for a prom full of suspense, mystery & strangeness….The old-timey meets the modern scandal showcase of ‘Naked on the Internet’…before shutting down the entire time-warping dance party with ‘Utterly Absurd.’ The new Claudettes record is one worthy of repeated listens to enjoy a variety of different facets from what is ultimately a complex piece of performance concept pop.
EMERGING INDIE BANDS (UK) Welcoming and warm dirty blues that grinds its way through the speakers filling the room with music that invites the listener to tarry in its company, like an invitation to share a drink in a ramshackle bar offered to a stranger in town—and long before the first song has run its course the audience feels The Claudettes are long-time travelling companions.
GIRL UNDERGROUND MUSIC With elements of blues, soul, punk, and flat out noise, the quartet have something truly unique that you have to hear to understand—even if it only succeeds to confuse you more.
THE ALTERNATE ROOT: “Psychobilly, ’60s rock ’n’ soul and vaudeville blues blare from the bandstand…frenetic piano…big-band-era harmony…amphetamine drive…whirling ’60s girl-group pop…cyclonic rhythms…jackhammer groove…as the Claudettes theatre-whisper the news for DANCE SCANDAL AT THE GYMNASIUM!”
THE GINGER QUIFF (UK) “There were moments in Twin Peaks (when) I sat and wondered what the hell I had just seen. I had similar experiences listening to the Claudettes—what on earth did I just hear?…A joy to behold….From first song to last, the whole album is masterful….If you aren’t shattered with a huge grin on your face after listening to this album, you haven’t been listening hard enough.”—
JP’S MUSIC BLOG You are instantly drawn in by the sweet, soulful vocals of Berit Ulseth. They incorporate a ’60s R&B vibe in the groove of ‘Give It Up For Good’ and the nostalgic jazzy vibe of ‘Naked On The Internet.’ The band shines beautifully on the sensual ballad “Pull Closer To Me.
KEYBOARD MAGAZINE: “Blues with the ferocity of punk….The piano takes center stage in the band’s music and songwriting, as it does on their new song ‘Don’t Stay with Me,’ our featured track this week.”
COLORADO SPRINGS INDEPENDENT Chicago’s eclectic blues weirdos the Claudettes rely on Berit Ulseth’s soaring vocals to infuse their music with punk and rockabilly elements. For this new album, the band relied on Black Keys engineer Mark Neill to combine a Phil Spector-style wall of sound with the cheesy ambience of your high school hallways. The results, while initially puzzling, yield a dozen pesky earworm tracks.
BLUES MAGAZINE (THE NETHERLANDS): Soul, rhythm & blues and heavily fuzzy, sometimes psychedelic, sound walls. Garagesoul!….The Claudettes have succeeded in mixing this catchy ’60s pop and soul sounds with their quirky bluespunk sound!
AXS Audiences looking for an album that will grab them by the ear and not let go will want to check out this record.
BEEHIVE CANDY The band have a delightfully unique musical sound…the musical hooks are everywhere. Not being certain of what each piece might bring adds to the excitement. This really is an album worth some time digging into.
THE AUTUMN ROSES Dizzying rhythms dance as elegant, vintage melodies cloak its dramas in cool. Then a quiet, warm romance glows with an enchanting warmth. ‘Don’t Stay with Me’ and ‘Pull Closer to Me’ are both polished, independently minded jewels.
SOUL AND JAZZ AND FUNK (UK) The intriguing new album from off-the-wall Chicago band the Claudettes….The foursome steadfastly refuses to categorize their music…though you might detect vaudeville, punk, blues and ’60s soul influences…interesting attempts to marry the classic girl-group sound of the Brill Building Era with Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.
INDIE VOICE BLOG Chicago has long been on the cutting edge of the blues, and the Claudettes are one of the finest bands we have ever heard that originated in the Windy City. The smoky hot vocals of Berit Ulseth and the scorching piano of Johnny Iguana ignite to set their music on fire…its sound will remain with you long after….The Claudettes must be a dynamic live band, because that performance energy comes through on every track. Run, don’t walk to your nearest retailer and get this one today.
INDIE BAND GURU Packed full of soul and spice….We are swooped into a dream world full of romantic vibes….The Claudettes is a band not found often in our time. It mixes the old and the new and spins what is a beloved genre and morphs it into a hailstorm of vocals and instruments in the best way.
BUZZ MAGAZINE (CHAMPAIGN, IL) Brimming with soul and funk…a fun and exciting listening experience….Ulseth’s voice sounds like an old friend’s, and that helps to create a deeper understanding….(They show) off their musical prowess while creating a well-rounded album that is a delight.
THE ALTERNATE ROOT The piano of Johnny Iguana sets the pace, the rhythm, and guides the Claudettes into the promise of ‘Give It All Up for Good’ on a brutal beat.
MICHAEL DOHERTY’S MUSIC LOG I wasn’t prepared for the wild ride this disc took me on…the music feels outside of time…This band really has its own sound, its own perspective, its own vibe. And it has something to say.
RAGE MONTHLY An intelligent mix of songs that speak to today and never stop pushing the boundaries of their musical expression.
GARY GRAFF, OAKLAND (MI) DAILY TRIBUNE An idiosyncratic blend—punk, blues, R&B, rockabilly, cabaret, some jazz—that’s both indescribable and undefinable.
DAGGER ZINE I have to admit it took me a little while to wrap my head around this record….an enticing mix of soul, blues, folk, and punk…loose, occasionally loud and lascivious…‘Don’t Stay With Me’ features some rolling and rollicking piano while ‘November’ is all late night lounge lizard swing.
THE DELI MAGAZINE (CHICAGO) The band blends blues, soul, punk, and more into a sound that is all their own. It’s somewhere on the venn diagram of Little Richard, Fiona Apple, and Nirvana.
FLOORSHIME ZIPPER BOOTS A rocking version of urban blues that is stylish and sultry. Frontwoman Berit Ulseth wows with vocals as smooth as a chocolate shake….The band colors its sound with some heavy rock and jazzy touches to create an album as strong as the Chicago winter. This is a must have.
DAILY HERALD (CHICAGO) If you drew a Venn diagram illustrating the overlap between bawdy blues, rowdy rock and manic punk, you could very well find Chicago’s The Claudettes at that intersection. I can think of no better way to describe the soulful and engaging songs this band conjures up.
PULL CLOSER TO ME: Live in the Piano Room (winner of a 2018 Independent Music Award) review:
JEFF BURGER, THE MORTON REPORT Three fine songs by the Claudettes’ Johnny Iguana…plus four covers that you’d never expect to find in one place: T.Rex’s ‘Cosmic Dancer’; Pink Floyd’s ‘Us and Them,’ combined, if you can believe it, with a whistled portion of Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’; Ruby and the Romantics’ 1963 hit, ‘Our Day Will Come’; and the Sundays’ ‘Here’s Where the Story Ends.’ Everything here is excellent but the latter two tracks, both featuring sublime vocalist Berit Ulseth, are particularly arresting.
GREG KOT, CHICAGO TRIBUNE A revelatory blend of jazz and blues, stirred with punk brio. There are also dashes of classical and world music, and enough stops, starts and hairpin turns to suggest the giddiness of Raymond Scott’s cartoon music…How do they do it?
Johnny talks with Greg Kot in an extended Chicago Tribune interview
Greg also picks The Claudettes’ NO HOTEL as one of his top Chicago albums of 2015
MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE A skewed cabaret band of jazz, blues and rockabilly…A sensibility that feels equal parts James Dean and David Lynch.
JEFF ELBEL, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES Chicago’s premiere punk-blues piano band are back in high gear. Their fusion of sounds (ranges) from Otis Spann to the Minutemen and from Ray Charles to Raymond Scott…(and they) do wicked things to standards.
NEW CITY (CHICAGO) Definitely one you should be spinning…there’s enough energy going on to power your average Third World airport…barreling, hyper-saloon piano banging…you have to hear it to believe it…Chicago’s own neo-vaudeville barnstormers!
ELMORE An album that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the past, yet it’s very much fresh and energizing. The Claudettes bring on the roots scene as you have never heard it before. Yana’s pop-soul voice is straight out of the ’60s and blends so well with the drumsticks, piano hammers and vintage swagger.
PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY Heavyweight piano man Johnny Iguana, drummer Michael Caskey and singer-dancer Yana create a kicked-up mix of blues, jazz and soul you’ll remember long afterward.
NO DEPRESSION The Claudettes attack the blues with the ferocity of punk rock on their sophomore album. NO HOTEL puts the rock ’n’ roll in the rhythm & blues…a 45-minute barn-burning party that you never want to end. Move over, Mose Allison, the Claudettes have arrived to give the blues a much needed kick in the ass.
BIG CITY BLUES MAGAZINE An entirely reconfigured Claudettes with the very welcome addition of the captivating, nay sultry, vocalist/dancer Yana. The trio move deftly from the Roaring Twenties to the 1940s to the 1960s…soulful…jazzy…hypnotic…hot-rod drums…shades of Cecil Gant crossed with Otis Spann…Yana needs her own album, she’s that good.
TONY SARABIA, WBEZ (CHICAGO NPR) Call it “Brother Ray Meets the Ramones,” “Barrelhouse Thunder,” “Chopin Meets the Minutemen”…or maybe, just call it great music.
INNOCENT WORDS Imagine a 1920s New York jazz supper club where Bessie Smith is owning the stage, and in the back there is another room where Ray Charles is playing 1960s soul, and off in the distance is a beautiful black lady singing French songs. That is the beauty of NO HOTEL by Claudettes. If Keith Moon had played the piano, he would have been Johnny Iguana…he is taking the piano to a whole new level…hot damn!
TIM QUINE, RUBBER CITY REVIEW (AKRON, OH) Pianist Johnny Iguana is the real deal. Together (with Caskey) they make a powerful sound, steeped in the legendary blues duets of Otis Spann and S.P. Leary but also weaving in strains of cabaret, vaudeville and even punk rock.
THE HOLLER (NEWS OF THE COLORADO BLUES SCENE) The blues turned inside out. Imagine Roosevelt Sykes mixed with David Bowie, only with soul. Polyrhythmic boogie-woogie piano from Iguana with freestyle drumming from Caskey. A dynamic, swinging approach to music. If you have a chance to see the Claudettes, do it.
The Claudettes selected as Bluesbreaker of the Week by Dan Aykroyd (a.k.a. Elwood Blues) on Bluesmobile!
The Claudettes featured on Sound Opinions, “The World’s Only Rock and Roll Talk Show”!
DOWNBEAT Hits listeners upside the head with a mash-up of Otis Spann blues, Albert Ammons boogie-woogie, Ray Charles soul and “Fess” Longhair New Orleans R&B. Catch them in a chaotic ballroom!
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES Fuses blues and punk, and all points between….The hectic boogaloo of “Deep Soul for High Society” pays rowdy homage to Ray Charles…prodigious skill, but not purism.
BG (BUDDY GUY’S BLUES AND MUSIC NEWS) Uninhibited, wild, exciting…yet deep-rooted Chicago blues. A very powerful and impassioned album done as only true Chicago blues masters could do it. With this album, Johnny could easily inherit Big Moose Walker’s mantle as the piano wild man of Chicago blues. A pair like the Claudettes really shows the continued vitality and possibilities of Chicago blues in the 21st century.
COLOSSAL POP Beautiful and chaotic and wildly impressive all at once….If you would have told me three weeks ago that the most played album in my rotation would be a piano and drum instrumental album, I would have laughed….I’m all in. I love this album and the Claudettes may be my new favorite band!
BLUES MUSIC MAGAZINE Like Keith Moon chasing a crazed, punked-up Little Richard… greasy rhythm and blues that makes the dance floor so slippery you need to sprinkle sawdust on the floor to keep from falling down…a great ride, one that’ll leave you shaking and laughing and wanting more the next time this rowdy carnival comes to town.
BLUES BLAST: Their ambition and hard work have been rewarded with a fabulous album…unquestionably danceable and refreshingly unique…40 minutes of high-energy fun.
BLUES BYTES (SURPRISE PICK OF THE MONTH, NOVEMBER 2013) One of the freshest discs that has crossed my ears in a long time…an amazing find…Iguana and Caskey play their instruments like men possessed.
AMERICAN BLUES SCENE Johnny Iguana sounds like a saloon pianist from the Wild West brought to the future, his own vaudeville style modernized alongside Caskey’s sweet and delectable drumming, blending blues, jazz and a good time, creating an album unlike any other on the market.
EDEN BRENT (VIA FACEBOOK) Has all the sophistication of 21st-century serious music with a helluva sense of humor….Most interesting piano album in my collection since Brubeck’s Take Five.
CAUGHT IN THE CAROUSEL They come across like a ragtime White Stripes, tearing through the 13 numbers here with an undeniable musical velocity….Truly one of the most refreshing musical experiences of the year.
FOLK AND ACOUSTIC MUSIC EXCHANGE Some of the most startling music you are going to hear…you are in for a wild ride. They seem like two madmen…but they are two madmen in beautiful tight rhythm.
BMAN’S BLUES REPORT A nonstop piano riot….With Hound Dog Taylor Taylor intensity, the two men create a rockin’ frenzy….Iguana has a lot to say and says a lot without saying a word.
SEPIACHORD Soon to be classic…a vintage vibe that should find ears with neo-hipsters, old-school cool cats and contemporary greasers alike.
POP MATTERS Greasy keyboard-based barrelhouse blues with a side of heavy beat that evokes early Chicago R&B/rock…makes you jump and dance…a little scary, but that’s just part of the dangerous thrill.
CASCADE BLUES ASSOCIATION Definitely nothing remotely blues-rock. There is a timeless feeling meshing the great pianists of the past with a modern flair that resembles nobody else.
THE ISTHMUS (MADISON, WI) The Claudettes are your new favorite party band. The Chicago quartet is rooted in “Windy City piano blues,” but their sound also includes elements of rockabilly, punk, burlesque and vaudeville, resulting in a band you’d be likely to hear at the speakeasy version of CBGBs.