Imelda May's fourth studio album, 2014's Tribal, finds the Irish chanteuse balancing an '80s-influenced new wave rockabilly energy with a few of old-school '50s ballads and a bit of country twang. Produced by Mike Crossey, who previously helmed projects by Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg, and others, Tribal features all of the elements that have made May such a breakthrough artist since her 2003 debut, No Turning Back. Here we get her bright, puckered vocal attack showcased on a bevy of instantly infectious cuts. As with her past albums, Tribal is split down the middle between songs written by May and songs penned by her husband and longtime creative partner, guitarist Darrel Higham. There is also one track, the lyrical, '50s-inspired lullaby "Little Pixie," co-written by May and her brother Fintan Clabby. From the opening title track, which hints at Bow Wow Wow's Burundi beat style, to the fiery Cramps-meets-B-52s-sounding "Wild Woman," May digs deep into the kind of wide-eyed '80s punk-does-'50s-rock & roll that bands like Restless and the Escalators championed in the early part of the '80s. Elsewhere, she delivers a handful of equally compelling songs, including the jaunty country-swing of "It's Good to Be Alive," the yearning and moody "Gypsy in Me," and the cavernous and bluesy "Wicked Way." Ultimately, May has always been a Celtic rockabilly goddess, armed with her trademark front-rolled pompadour and Irish bodhrán drum. Tribal is her call to arms; her statement of purpose. As she sings on the title track," When you look in the mirror, tell me what do you see/Someone new or your ancestry?/You're a king, you're a queen, you're a wizard, a fool/Or if you're me, then rockabilly rules." Whether it’s an ancient Celtic tribe or a tribe of leather-jacketed rockers, May and her fans belong.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar