A double A-Side. “Style” is less obviously radical than “Cumberland Gap”; “Gamblin Man” if anything more so. Recorded in front of a whooping audience, “Gamblin’ Man” is sheer frenzy, a primitive hoedown which speeds up and up and up while Lonnie’s voice accelerates into a howl. Then comes the instrumental break and things get even wilder.
When I was 8 or 9 a friend and I formed a ‘band’ called The Guntzheads. The idea was that we would turn the tape on, repeat a phrase or two slow, then bash or strum whatever came to hand and howl it again and again until we got bored. With its biscuit tin drums, lightning guitars and urgent hollers, “Gamblin Man”‘s last minute sounds like that. Except tighter, of course – these are touring pros, jazz band veterans. But that’s what makes it so good – the audible, extreme fun these guys are having just letting go and pushing the song until it blurs.
“Puttin On The Style” isn’t remotely as exciting but that doesn’t make it bad (or even worse). It’s a cute variety show song rocked up a bit, Donegan’s performance an awkward but captivating mix of music hall trickery – comic voices, the whole funny-old-world perspective – and live-wire rockisms. As with “Cumberland Gap”, it’s the spit-and-sellotape arrangement that makes it so immediate, plus Donegan’s clear conviction that laughing and rocking were not exclusive. 8