Talkin’ ’bout the Claudettes…
PRESS FOR HIGH TIMES IN THE DARK (2020):
LA WEEKLY The band refers to their sound as “garage cabaret” and that fits beautifully…’High Times in the Dark’ is Chicago band The Claudettes’ fifth album, and it’s an absolute gem. The key is the punk-blues piano of Johnny Iguana blended with the gorgeous vocals of future breakout star Berit Ulseth…The band is composed of super talented musicians…But damn, Ulseth’s voice…her work here is captivating…There’s no filler here…enthralling…It’s a record that ends and you want to hit ‘play’ again. Don’t resist. (Album of the Week)
NPR MUSIC Chicago’s original recipe band…The Claudettes’ sonic playing field is the blues and everything after, all tastefully and artfully blended together….Perhaps the band’s greatest super power: songwriting…The Claudettes showcase the band’s range of motion, setting a lingering mood with ‘The Sun Will Fool You’ as Ulseth’s ethereal voice and Iguana’s piano sweetly sing a sad ballad that would not be out of place in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
LOUDER THAN WAR (UK) Eleven prime fresh cuts of glorious attitude-packed musicianship, with vocals delivered by an angel…Berit’s voice is somehow simultaneously formidable and serene & heavenly…superb…achingly beautiful…will have you reaching for the repeat button.
STEPHEN THOMAS ERLEWINE, ALLMUSIC.COM ‘High Times in the Dark’ is filled with clever, soulful rock & roll that’s rooted in blues, jazz, and R&B but veers toward classic pop: music that’s designed to be played in the heart of the night but is snappy and catchy enough to shine brightly during the day….Iguana has tightened his writing, a refinement that helps Ulseth command attention with her lithe vocals. She plays with her phrasing like a jazz singer but keeps her focus on the stories of the songs, sounding as convincing on the MeToo takedown ‘Declined’ as she does on the sly rocker ‘Grandkids, Wave Bye-Bye.’ It all adds up to a vibrant listening experience, one that feels fresh even as it flirts with the past. (4 stars, Editor’s Choice)
NO DEPRESSION (Amos Perrine) The most intriguing and the most difficult to describe of this bunch…hard-driving New Orleans-inspired piano anchors a wall-of-sound approach…Berit Ulseth’s vocals sometimes simmer, sometimes soar, marking this as an ambitious, elegant record, the likes of which are in short supply…what these four have done is no small feat…if (it) doesn’t grab you, then I don’t know what will.
JOHN APICE, AMERICANA HIGHWAYS Johnny Iguana’s piano adds colorful melodic lift, and the dynamics of the production are filled with energy and enthusiasm. But the rich vocals of Berit Ulseth are the real personality charm of the band…Berit really asserts herself on each song as the LP goes deeper….The beauty of the rolling piano notes drive ‘You Drummers Keep Breaking My Heart’…its superbly recorded vocals are a stunner. If I had to give stars, this LP gets 5.
GLIDE MAGAZINE This may well be a coming-out party for vocalist Berit Ulseth…it’s blues-jazz-soul with a vocalist that sings rather than shouts…the Claudettes keep it full-throttle…this recording will send echoes from Julie London to Allen Toussaint to garage rockers like the Detroit Cobras and the Black Keys…exceptionally strong and musically rich…’High Times in the Dark’ is the band’s fifth release and by far the best yet.
POP MATTERS A particularly potent batch of compositions that highlight the quartet’s undeniable chemistry. Johnny Iguana’s piano remains a driving force within the group while Berit Ulseth’s inimitable vocal style remains front-and-center. The Claudettes have stepped comfortably into their finest moment yet via ‘High Times in the Dark.’ The new single is ’24/5,’ which spotlights the group’s ability to marry humor with uncompromising musical ferocity.
THE ALTERNATE ROOT Gypsy accents…majestic theatrics…soul-saving boogie…carnival cabaret…’High Times in the Dark’ sets up as main stage, big tent, taking the audience away from the troubles of day-to-day life with the merry melodrama of the Claudettes….The band put the bomp into pomp…(A) beautiful mash-up of coordinated chaos.
GOLDMINE MAGAZINE For their fifth album, the Claudettes are having some ‘High Times In The Dark,’ for it is here where this eccentric eclectic Chicago band elevates its lead singer into diva territory. Berit Ulseth is that good. So is the Jerry Lee Lewis/Memphis Slim piano of band founder Johnny Iguana….Rooted in a kind of mix’n’match rootsy 1960s hippiedom…the songs come totally alive. Ulseth is a great communicator. You believe her….and the desire that permeates her soul…in track after track. She emotes. And I don’t remember them ever being this good!”
DITTY TV So fun and lively and energetic…(a) wonderful blend of musical genres that gives the Claudettes such a distinctive sound…we love the album.
MOUNTAIN STAGE (NPR) If you like NRBQ, Medeski Martin and Wood, or any combination of amped up piano soul, then you’ll like the Claudettes.
BILL KOPP/MUSOSCRIBE What the Claudettes do is truly special: their music can’t be described in a few words, and it’s so damn good that one doesn’t even want to try. Let the music speak for itself…You’ll hear echoes of blues, R&B, punk and postwar jazz…and it all rocks with an undeniably sophisticated, sexy swagger.
NEW CITY (Chicago) The latest, wittiest outing from the rollicking post-lounge, acid-cabaret, piano-driven alt-boogie ensemble (and if you’ve got a better descriptor, let’s hear it). (Music Top 5, May 2020)
BLOGCRITICS (Jeff Burger) Their challenging, exhilarating sound profits substantially from the piano work and adventurous compositions of Johnny Iguana. But their biggest asset is singer Berit Ulseth, whose captivating vocals variously recall artists as diverse as Julie London, Ruby & the Romantics and Blondie’s Deborah Harry. This inventive fifth album, which finds her singing largely about love, lust, and heartbreak, is arguably their best.
ILLINOIS ENTERTAINER (Jeff Elbel) Chicago’s baffling, delightful, and utterly unique band…its crowning achievement, “High Times in the Dark” is packed with memorable melodies, stunning performances, and stories that are witty and wise, as well as touching and timely…a sophisticated, satisfying, and quixotically cohesive sound. The Claudettes are grand champions leading a genre of precisely one band.
BLUES ROCK REVIEW A pretty voice and lots of piano don’t seem like a natural combination for blues-inspired rock and roll but the Claudettes rock hard using both….Iguana’s keyboard work deftly slips in and out of genres, often before you have time to process what he’s doing. Mostly because you’re distracted by Ulseth’s voice, which is breathy and flirty, but also intimidating…an impressively strong set of music…11 songs that merge ’50s rock, disco, classical, and pop…8.5 out of 10.
COLORADO SPRINGS INDY If this Chicago bluesy rock band offered a high-school confidential with their 2018 album, its follow-up is a riff-filled rocker that never flags in energy. Lead singer Berit Ulseth has never soungain.ded more sultry, like a good-natured Lana Del Rey out to own the juke joint….A party-starter, perfect for the days when parties can be started again.
THE VINYL DISTRICT The band pulls off the difficult feat of being clearly roots cognizant while never sounding like a dusted-off relic….’High Times in the Dark’ is not a bit hackneyed, which is an absence worth celebrating….a sound that smartly puts Ulseth’s skills up front….she brings appealing soul music verve to the proceedings….As this set unwinds there’s considerable pop savvy on display, and in spots the LP is kinda like a 21 century version of what Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and the Dixie Flyers were doing.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Great bands often lurk in between the cracks of more popular tastes….The Claudettes mix and meld their sound into something not quite conventional yet soulful, bluesy and at times even jazzy….fronted by the sultry and sweet vocals of Berit Ulseth….Ulseth’s singing has an easy charm, with a vibrant falsetto….(Iguana’s) keyboard work is fantastic everywhere on the record; his immaculate flourishes and lead melody lines really inform everything….The opening track, “Bad Babe, Losin’ Touch,” is a near perfect pop song with an ensemble kick that Ulseth rides above. (4 out of 5 stars)
NPR MUSIC: STATION BREAKS (The Best New Songs from NPR Member Stations) This high-octane piano rocker (“Declined”) boasts a ton of swagger, especially from vocalist Berit Ulseth. She gives the most tasteful rejections imaginable.
SPILL MAGAZINE (TORONTO) The musical talent of the Claudettes is impressive, and never more so than in ‘High Times in the Dark,’ in particular that of keyboardist Johnny Iguana….Lead vocalist Berit Ulseth then steps in and the music is taken to another level….Ulseth’s almost jazz-like delivery of the lyrics pair flawlessly with the incredible piano performance of Iguana….Altogether, the album is a fresh and unique update on the sounds of the past. (4 out of 5 stars)
JOHN B. MOORE, NEUFUTUR MAGAZINE A beautifully bastardized child of cabaret, pop, punk and rock, ‘High Times in the Dark’ is the band’s strongest offering to date…’You Drummers Keep Breaking My Heart’ is easily one of the best song yet dedicated to those who sat behind a kit….Over the course of five records, the Claudettes have managed to find their niche and perfect a sound that is both impressively broad and wildly fun. ‘High Times In The Dark’ is just further proof that the band deserves a much bigger stage.
FOLK/TUMBLE (Ireland) ‘High Times in the Dark’ sees Chicago-based outfit the Claudettes return with a moody noir sound….Johnny Iguana’s keyboard skills on the record are sublime. Heavy pounding chord runs are mixed with subtle fills to hint at a style that lands somewhere between the works of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Add in the cabaret-punk vocal of Berit Ulseth to the mix alongside the booming drums of founding member, Michael Caskey, and the bass and guitar of Zach Verdoorn and the unique sound of The Claudettes really finds its feet….‘High Times in the Dark’ is a classic noir-infused rock-and-roll record that is full of eccentricity and emotion.
COACHELLA VALLEY WEEKLY Stylistically, the music of The Claudettes is all over the map. That’s a good thing….The Claudettes effortlessly offer a smorgasbord of sounds…Berit’s elastic style lands somewhere between Teutonic chanteuse Ute Lemper and the willowy grace of Sundays front-woman, Harriet Wheeler. Johnny’s inventive keyboard prowess anchors each song, mercurial one minute and tranquil the next. Ultimately, High Times In The Dark is a rollicking good time.
GRANT BRITT, NO DEPRESSION ‘Creeper Weed’ features Iguana banging away like Jerry Lee and Ulseth warbling frenetically over the top like a chanteuse on Ritalin…’24/5′ is metal-clad boogie-woogie laid over a relentless head-banging rhythm section…’Declined’ is a rattly rocker barely restrained from kicking out the jams by Ulseth’s velvety delivery….Always unpredictable, deliciously abnormal, ‘High Times in the Dark’ is a happy hour you’ll hang around for till last call.
BIG TAKEOVER Wild-eyed and thoroughly fun, the Claudettes cook up an eclectic brew of brash pop and moody cabaret on the vastly entertaining “High Times in the Dark”….Ulseth plays the smoky cocktail chanteuse or the brassy blues shouter with equal authority….This smart, snappy album will make bad times a little easier to bear and turn future good times into a party.
ROOTS HIGHWAY (Italy) A band that really has a lot to teach to the myriad blues bands that too often are content to follow the twelve bars without too much originality….A series of songs where frenzied rhythms and pianos with Jerry Lee Lewis in the engine punch with melodic structures swinging and caressing. A union that works, and indeed avoids the affectation that has often infected the swing revival…making the Claudettes, despite all their retro mania, a group that manages to stand out from the crowd.
inMusic (Germany) The Claudettes surprise with a wonderfully varied mix of blues,soul, R&B, rockabilly and jazz…especially the inimitable vocals of singer Berit Ulseth.
THE BLUES AND ROOTS MUSIC BLOG (Australia) There’s a lot going on with this album, and it’s all good. The multi-talented and genre-defying Claudettes have a sound that’s steeped in American roots and they present it in an intoxicating and seductive style that is fresh and expansive. The ’60s sound is certainly evident and the top-flight vocals of Berit Ulseth blend in perfectly with the energetic and skillful musical talents of Johnny Iguana, Zach Verdoorn and Michael Caskey. Producer Ted Hutt has done a sterling effort mixing it all together and has captured the essence of their eclectic sounds with poetic perfection.
HIPPO PRESS (New Hampshire) This female-fronted Chicago band…can come out and surprise you with beautifully airy ’70s-cruising pop when you least expect it (“I Swear to God I Will” melts in the ears like chocolate mousse)…Amanda Palmer without the over-amped melodrama, or maybe Carole King with a quicker pulse. (Grade: A)
AMERICAN SONGWRITER It nods from diverse influences to piano blues and rockabilly to roots, jazz and soul. They’ve cultivated a sound that’s equally clamorous and shimmering–hence the term ‘garage cabaret’…a sense of bravado, both vocally and instrumentally.
SCENE POINT BLANK GIMME THAT CLAUDETTES ALBUM! PLEASE!…By the time the band starts their third song “I Swear To God I Will” you know you are in love with the singer. What a voice! She seduces, she entrances….their fifth album…is their best ever. (9 out of 10 stars)
HISTORIA DEL BLUES (Bogota, Colombia) A kind of catharsis…with much love and humor…’High Times in the Dark’ is an unpredictable album…based on Chicago blues but it has many New Orleans touches…it moves through rock, jazz, R&B and punk, without establishing a boundary between them…a very fresh sound that likes to flirt with the past.
THE ROCKING MAGPIE (UK) The Claudettes draw enthusiastically on a variety of classic forms and styles….Johnny Iguana dominates with some marvelous barrel-house New Orleans piano, while the silky vocals of Berit Ulseth wind their way in and out in a soulful manner over a sharp rhythm section of Zach Verdoorn and Michael Caskey…veering at times between Bo Diddley and Sade….The album brings together a variety of styles in a sharply performed manner and it’s a fine taster for the live arena, where the dynamics of the band’s sound will surely excel. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they make these shores for me to find out!
BLUES NEWS (NORWAY) An engaging mix of blues, rock and pop….The songs are excellent, varied and exciting, and the playing is inspired, playful, relaxed and cool. Berit Ulseth is a true find–super cool in her expression, with style and attitude…highly recommended….It is like a blues/rock/pop/punk cabaret….unpredictable, and highly entertaining. (5 out of 6 “B”s)
REVIEW MEXICO “High times in the Dark” makes you feel as if you’re in a cabaret in the middle of the last century with an unusual touch of modernity….Berit Ulseth’s work is phenomenal throughout the album, without a doubt it is the perfect complement for the great musicians. (Translated from Spanish)
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL TRUTH The Claudettes’ sound is at once magically familiar and decidedly new, with the quartet’s sound somehow weaving roots rock, New Orleans rhythm and blues, and Memphis rock ‘n’ soul together with a post-punk attitude….On the troupe’s brilliant new album ‘High Times in the Dark,’ Johnny Iguana’s astounding piano playing and singer Berit Ulseth’s marvelous voice vie for attention in all the right ways.
JAZZ WEEKLY Like a modern version of Blondie…Iguana’s piano give a touch to Billy Joel…and a dash of Dr. John…the team sounds big and bold…a delicate echoed piano/vocal duet on ‘The Sun Will Fool You’ is the most moving of the collection.
DAGGER ZINE Berit Ulseth has a set of pipes to die for….”Creeper Weed” sounds like Iguana has metal fingers…Caskey on drums and bassist Zach Verdoorn keep the whole thing from going off the rails…they work together really well as a unit…they’ve put together another really, really fine record here.
MUSIC CONNECTION This Chicago quartet blends jazz, blues and indie rock for a sound they call ‘garage cabaret’ featuring the streamlined match of sultry Berit Ulseth’s lead vocals and Johnny Iguana’s adventurous keyboard work….They run the gamut from smooth to gritty to soulful….Ulseth’s take on the ballad ‘The Sun Will Fool You’ is worth the price of admission.” (Rating: 9 out of 10)
CHUCK CAMPBELL, KNOXVILLE NEWS SENTINEL Rich with jazz and blues stylings paired with alt-rock attitude….Berit Ulseth is a steadfast crooner with a mesmerizingly clear voice….gritty go-go…bracing storytelling…4 out of 5 stars
TOM HAUGEN, TAKE EFFECT REVIEWS A rollicking piano fueled adventure…Berit Ulseth’s vocals soar…charms with piano acrobatics amid a timeless energy…Grammy winner Ted Hutt produced the effort, and it sounds as great as you’d imagine as he captured their vintage appeal perfectly, clearly illustrating that their blues, jazz, R&B, pop, and rock ’n’ roll hybrid has never sounded better. 9/10.
THE MORNING CALL (Lehigh Valley, PA) Piano-centric blues is one of several facets in their music, along with soul, rock and even bits of punk and jazz….On ‘High Times in the Dark,’ the Claudettes carve out a unique space in roots music…both grand and edgy….The Claudettes clearly know how to rock….With both Ulseth and Iguana sounding like major talents, ‘High Times in the Dark’ strongly suggests the Claudettes have a bright future.”
antiMUSIC While ‘High Times in the Dark’ is a showcase for (Ulseth’s) vocal work, the album is far from a one-person effort. Johnny Iguana’s piano sets a mood on cuts like ’24/5′ and Zach Verdoorn reels off sassy guitar riffs on the soulful rock of ‘Grandkids, Wave Bye-Bye,’ and the band, rounded out with drummer Michael Caskey, creates perfect soundscapes for Ulseth throughout….Drawing from many genres, the Claudettes do indeed offer up high times here on this nice set of rootsy pop.
RAGE MONTHLY A summer breeze of vibrancy….There is a honky-tonk saloon sound, New Orleans jazz vibe, blaring guitars and slam-dunk drummer. Added to the honey is remarkable piano player Johnny Iguana….The emotional core is the thoughtful lyrics and vocals of the sadder but wiser lead singer Berit Ulseth. Truly three ‘rah-rah-rah’ cheers go out for The Claudettes.
DISCO CLUB PARMA (Italy) They affect the heart directly with a good dose of vitality amphetamine…five discs into their career, the Claudettes play with a conviction never reached before and with a renewed sense of harmony!
POP CULTURE CLASSICS The Claudettes have a sound and sensibility all their own…frenetic, fun, fascinating….the riveting vocals of Berit Ulseth lift the band to tremendous heights…crackles with drama…expect the unexpected….Enjoy “High Times in the Dark.” It’s eclectic, exciting and extraordinary.
PRESS FOR DANCE SCANDAL AT THE GYMNASIUM! (2018):
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!”
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.
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!
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.
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.
JEFF ELBEL, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES The band honors its disparate roots while crowding the palette even further on the new album….New Orleans stroll, roots, jazz, krautrock and rockabilly are swirled into the delightfully confounding mixture….Zach Verdoorn plays frequently feral bass and guitar. Berit Ulseth’s supple, jazz-schooled voice is a natural fit for the band….Iguana deploys his piano as a blunt-force instrument.”
CONCERTO MAGAZINE (Austria) Chicago piano blues-punk, spiced up with a pinch of jazz, psychedelic music and soul…quite an unusual listening experience…eccentric…Ulseth is an extraordinary singer…Blues, but of the extraordinary variety. (4 out of 5 stars)
SPILL MAGAZINE (Toronto): The Claudettes are…putting out music that sounds unlike like anything out there now….Berit Ulseth is the siren singer of the group, with a voice that just lures you in….They have roots in the bluesy jazz groups of the past, the classic rock ‘n’ roll from the beginning, current folk influences, some country mixed in, and something special that is simply impossible to place….Their newest album really is a true masterpiece….It’s unlike anything I’ve heard before. 10/10.
NICK CRISTIANO, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER The title of the band’s album, Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium!, hints at the kind of kitschy fun percolating under this audaciously genre-defying set….From roots to pop to punk, the musical strains span decades as well as styles, making for a mash-up delivered with deft musicianship and flair.
RICK MASON, MINNEAPOLIS CITY PAGES Trying to parse the sprawling, shapeshifting, intoxicating gloop that Chicago’s Claudettes concoct would be “Utterly Absurd.” That’s the title of a noisy, twisted stomp on the quartet’s new album…it sounds like psychobilly night at New Orleans’ Dew Drop Inn. Blues, punk, and vintage rock slip up top, swirling around the piano antics of blues/art-rock vet Johnny Iguana….Berit Ulseth’s jazz-schooled, country-edged vocals add another dozen intriguing dimensions—Minneapolis City Pages
SCENE POINT BLANK The punk vibe stems from the energy that pours out of your speakers….A brilliant production from Mark Neill….What really lured me in is Berit Ulseth’s vocals…she is the real star of the album…I can only advise you to give the new Claudettes album a spin. I think I’ll leave it on repeat…8.0/10
TONSPION (biggest music blog in Germany) Impressive piano sound with pulsating beats…If you still think that the piano cannot rock, you should definitely listen to the Claudettes.
DISCO CLUB (ITALY) These Claudettes intrigued me…a cross between rock, diverted R&B and instrumental virtuosity…complex and fascinating melodies…also the vocal harmonies, almost like the Beach Boys, are formidable….If you want to do an experiment in a parallel world where pop is out of any pattern, try this Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium. I do not know if they make scandal, but good (and strange) music, surely.
MINNPOST (Minneapolis) You could throw a lot of descriptors at the Claudettes, and they would all stick: Windy City blues, punk blues, jazz, roots, rockabilly, soul, juke joint….Johnny Iguana is a hardcore piano banger; vocalist Berit Ulseth has a clear, sweet voice with a spine of steel. The music is fierce and the lyrics are wicked. If you’re on the hunt for something you haven’t heard before, this Chicago-based band is probably it.
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.
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.
BLUESBUNNY (Glasgow, Scotland) Manic barrelhouse mania…a search and destroy mission….’Pull Closer to Me,’ with the intoxicating voice of Berit Ulseth out front, soon becomes the song that will steal your heart…An album with hipster appeal but, for those of us with a heart, it is what resides beneath the fast-flowing waves of musical energy that will make our day. That, in case you haven’t guessed it already, is soul.
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.
KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL The Claudettes clobber convention with ‘Scandal’….a complex amalgamation of blues, jazz and organic rock with an adult lyrical bent and stunningly melodious vocals by primary singer Berit Ulseth….As engaging as the vivacious and often romping instrumentation is, Ulseth’s commanding vocals, steadfast and dulcet, flood the songs with humanity….Bands like The Claudettes make it easier to cope with a crazy world. (4 out of 5 stars)
MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE Another alluringly idiosyncratic mélange of blues, jazz, pop, rockabilly, punk and soul with a sometimes noirish vibe (“Don’t Stay with Me,” “November”) and a sometimes kinetic kick (“Influential Farmers,” “Taco Night Material”)—or both (the title track). Berit Ulseth has the right blend of mysteriousness and sweetness for this material, which is skillfully spiked by veteran Johnny Iguana’s versatile and enthusiastic keyboards.
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 All 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.
TOM HAUGEN, DAILY VAULT An unlikely meshing of blues, rockabilly, jazz and ’60s pop, all with traces of burlesque and vaudeville spirit….The new tunes are highlighted by Ulseth’s seductive pipes….’Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium’ is both reserved and ignited, sophisticated and reckless, and it contains some of the best elements of every notable genre of music since the ’60s….There aren’t too many albums that can remind you of both the Cramps and Patsy Cline. A-.
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.
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.
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.
RECORD DEPT. MUSIC REVIEWS Combines musical styles for a retro vibe with modern tongue-in-cheek humor….Both the Claudettes and their genre-blending Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium album are fascinating and ever-evolving.
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.
COOL CLEVELAND The Claudettes mix up musical styles and eras with insouciant glee. Rockabilly, punk, classic soul, vintage burlesque house jazz and piano-driven jump blues all bubble up in their cauldron of sound.
PASADENA WEEKLY They may be hell for agents to market, but the unpredictability of eclectic bands like this is refreshing….(they) imaginatively stir blues, New Orleans jazz, grungy rock and pop, shifting time signatures with abandon.
REXBASS.COM The Claudettes are hard to pin down to any one genre….There is a definitely a blues influence, but there is also a heavy jazz theme, and to lesser degrees you will hear rock, boogie-woogie, punk, and god know what else. All of these elements add up to a wonderful slice of Americana….These guys can really play: Iguana has a killer dexterity and a righteous touch on the keys, Verdoorn is ultimately versatile and has wicked bass and guitar tones, and Torre is a frickin’ drumming machine. Damn.
ILLINOIS ENTERTAINER They pull out all the stops on their latest album….12 eclectic tunes run the gamut…piano-driven Chicago blues and improvisational soul/jazz with a heartfelt punk rock attitude, played with a quirky tin-pan alley, neo-vaudevillian swagger.…(Berit Ulseth is) endearing and seductive…immense musical chops…Iguana’s social commentary and character-based storytelling are equally impressive….The band covers a broad musical spectrum
NEW CITY (CHICAGO) It seems that every conceivable musical genre pairing has been attempted…It’s comparatively rare to discover an artist creating something that feels fresh and new out of existing musical forms. Chicago band The Claudettes are just such artists…There’s a strong foundation of barrelhouse and stride piano jazz, but there’s plenty of boogie-woogie as well…Some call it punk jazz; others label it psychobilly R&B. In the end, labels don’t matter, nor do they get at the heart of the music from this innovative and constantly evolving outfit.
ALTCOUNTRYFORUM.NL (Netherlands) Playful…raw, exciting… From soul, rhythm & blues to a dash of jazz to rockabilly and punk music…intriguing, sometimes theatrical and unpredictable…a cool record…the Claudettes deserve to be heard, especially on the various Dutch stages.
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.