Miss Melanie & the Valley Rats

My first thoughts upon hearing of this band was that it would be reminiscent of local legends Queen Bee & the Blue Hornet Band. Both Melanie Morrison and Tonya Brown are exceptional vocalists, but the idea of drawing comparisons was dispelled immediately when Melanie Morrison opened her mouth and began to sing. While some band members are the same that is where the comparisons end. Even songs that were covered by both bands were considerably different. The two vocalist's styles are as different as apples and oranges. Even the band's approach is different. Fronted by Melanie Morrison on vocals the band features Mark Ross on guitar, Jack Wilkinson on drums, Rev. Harton on organ & accordion and John “JK” Kennedy on bass. Morrison has a voice that is reminiscent of Etta James, sultry, smoky and very highly emotionally charged. This woman could charm the robes off the Pope…no offense intended. The band is equally emotionally charged, coming from the school of feelings rather than technical perfection. Don't get me wrong, this band can hold their own with the best of them from either standpoint. Wilkinson and Kennedy are a superb rhythm section…the type that blends so well that they could almost be missed, understanding full well that a band is a single unit rather than five individuals competing on the same stage. This band operates like a well-oiled machine with each member doing his part to compliment the overall sound and it works extremely well. Harton is incredible on organ and accordion and Mark Ross has lost nothing over the years as a guitarist. This is one of the tightest, most powerful bands I've heard in a while. They know how to mix things up, flowing seamlessly from blues to R&B, rock, country and even polka. Slow Down offered one thrill after another; the band's repertoire was so diverse. Among my favorite tunes on the disc were Hank Williams' “Cold Cold Heart” and the title tune, “Slow Down”, which is one of the band's many originals. This is one disc that belongs in the collection of everyone in our area as well as lovers of Americana or just music in general. While I was not surprised by the strength of this album, I was overwhelmed by its diversity. This one's a keeper.

  • Billtown Blues News
    Bill Wilson
    October/November 2011