Wille & The Bandits release their new album 'Paths' by Fat Toad Records and distributed by Proper tomorrow, encapsulating the excitement and gusto of Rock ’n’ Roll. The album is a breath of fresh air challenging the listener while embracing technology and instrumental possibilities that are afforded to musicians in current times. To support the release of their new album, the band will tour the UK in March 2019 with special guests The Rainbreakers, beginning at the Ropetackle, Shoreham, on Wednesday 6th March and ending in London on Saturday 30th March at the O2 Academy 2 in Islington. From humble roots in Cornwall, Wille Edwards (lead vocals, guitars), Matt Brooks (bass) and beats master Andy Naumann have toured with bands and musicians such as Deep Purple, Status Quo, Joe Bonamassa, the Jon Butler Trio and Warren Haynes. In 2014 the band was voted in the Top Ten bands to see at Glastonbury. They also played the Isle of Wight festival as well as at the London Olympics, picked to play by being voted one of UK’s best Live acts. Other festival appearances include Boardmasters and several festivals in Europe.
Edwards Cajun style intro on the album opener 'One Way' sees Andy's thundering drums and Wille's bottleneck guitar immediately driving us down the right path with a thumping anthem, thanks to an Edwards guitar solo and some political fist pumping backing vocals from Brooks and Naumann, on a song that you can't help singing along and tapping your feet to. The political message continues as the band unite with the groovy funk of 'Make Love' (not war), its retro flower power feel all the more accentuated as the guitar licks were not only recorded using 1950's valve amps, but the vocals were run through a vintage tape machine. The introduction of a cool swirling Hammond organ further demonstrates the versatility of the band on 'Victim Of The Night', about someone who finds solace in the toxicity of the nightlife. Well the solace of their forthcoming UK tour certainly appeals, as this track builds into an outro featuring guest vocalist Alex Hart, that soars into epic Blues Rock with wailing guitars. You know that occasional feeling when you hear a song for the first time and it just hits the spot? The moving ballad 'Four Million Days' does just that - opening with Matt's cello and Wille's finger picked acoustic guitar, it is a joy to be behold, also showcasing Andrew's consummate drumming plus the power of Wille's vocals, its piece de resistance being Edwards signature lap slide Gilmouresque solo, weaving in and out of its outstanding orchestral construction. Follow that. Well the pace and political message picks up again with the impressive 'Chakra' - taking us in another musical direction with its world music vibe - Andy's percussion literally drumming home its environmental message with his djembe and hang drum accompanied by Wille on electric Weissenborn and Matt on his six string bass.
To keep us on our musical toes, the track genre order continues to twist and turn, with some more groovy funk on 'Keep It On The Down-Low' - the combination of Wille's hip-hop/rap vocal and bottleneck solo, Andrew's heavy percussive elements and some serious funky bass from Matt - very reminiscent of Blondie's 'Rapture' meets Derek Trucks meets AWB's 'Cut The Cake'. Love it. And talking of vibe, the band use the the retro valve amps and vintage tape machine once again to good effect on the Nick Cave/Tom Waits sounding 'Judgement Day', its powerful message about people from a religious background, surviving as best they can on the street, inspired by the TV series 'The Wire'. 'How Long' is Edwards heartfelt tribute to his late idol Chris Cornell - a song fittingly written and delivered by Wille, right from the guts about depression and how difficult it is to overcome. And if you needed a headbanger after the raw emotion of the previous song, then their first single 'Find My Way' takes you down that very same path, thanks to the combination of Wille's husky vocal run through a 1970's space echo, plus playing his super fuzzed out slide through a 1953 amplifier guitar, seriously whoopin' ass as it belts along. However, the start of its cool mystical sounding second phase sees Brooks on six string bass, Naumann on Udu and Djembie drums and Edwards playing Indian scales on a dobro, before they find their way back to a rockin' path outro with some great backing vocals from the engine room of Naumann and Brooks.
The Indian influence continues on the opening of 'Watch You Grow', its subject matter all about the beauty of becoming a parent and your child's subsequent development. Indeed, this toe-tapping track certainly grows on you after repeated plays, which sees Willie once again playing his Weissenborn, a hypnotic bass line from Matt plus Andy on an African tongue drum (yes really), that all adds up to that 'You Can Call Me Al' world music feel. It's now 'Retribution' time - the final track on the album - the band signing off with the message of how governments have sold out our planet and it is now payback time. More like 'Retro-bution', given Edwards soaring Skynyrd like lap slide solo, once again consolidated by Brooks and Naumann's solid foundations plus some awesome keys. A real cracker to round off an album that has everything musically: attitude, experimentation, energy, diversity and thought provoking messages, whilst at the same time having the beauty of the manoeuvrability of another dimension in a raw, live, environment. This is real Rock 'n' Roll as we know it, personified. On this evidence, Wille & The Bandits are certainly heading down the right path.
Melbourne Rock band Electric Mary release their fourth studio album ‘Mother’ this Friday 15th February via Listenable Records. The five-piece consisting of Rusty Brown (lead vocals), Pete Robinson (guitar, vocals), Alex Raunjak (bass), Brett Wood (guitar, vocals) and Paul 'Spyda' Marrett (drums), have been around for ten years, globally renowned for their explosive brain-bending live performances and are regarded as one of, if not the best live bands in Oz. Indeed, the band has held their own while sharing the world’s stages with some of the most revered names in Hard Rock. Whitesnake took them on the road, Judas Priest asked them to support, Deep Purple had them in stadiums. Kiss, Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Def Leppard all followed and even after ten years on the road Electric Mary continue to impress Rock music fans and media across the planet.
'Mother' follows their previous milestone album ‘III’, released way back in 2011, preceded by 2008's 'Down To The Bone' and before that 2004's 'Four Hands High'. Throw in another five EP's and a live album for good measure, and it's fair to say these guys have consistently over time put in a quality Classic Rock shift. Consequently, their brand of take no prisoners Rock 'n" Roll has understandably seen their fans licking their lips in anticipation at this long awaited follow-up, not only in expectation of it being as ground-breaking as the band's previous discography, but also deservedly propelling them to that next level.
Brown's explosive opening vocal on 'Gimme Love' is an immediate indication that these Oz Rockers have not lost any of their undoubted energy. Robinson's driving riff and solo, with a twist off Psychedelic Space Rock, is definitely the offspring of Zeppelin and Montrose, and even though, for mine, this rocker ends a bit prematurely, this has the label of "see you down the front" wrapped all over it. There's no let up in the head banging Hard Rock of 'Hold Onto What You Got'. Packed into an amazing three minutes, Rusty's vocal sounds like a delightful hybrid of Plant and Dan McCafferty, once again complemented by some awesome, succinct fret work. Unapologetically, the pace slows down for the Blues Rock of 'How Do You Do It'. The story goes that Brown named the band after visiting Jim Hendrix's Electric Lady Record Studios in New York. That's where he met studio manager "Electric" Mary Campbell and you can guess the rest. Suffice to say that both Jimi and Mary would be blown away with the construction of this track, that doffs its cap to the master with some more superb guitar riffs and salvos plus another powerful, vocal from Rusty. Another slow one, the second longest track on the album, is 'Sorry Baby'. No need to be sorry as the song neatly builds around Raunjak's cool bass and Spyda's exceptional sticks, before the killer guitars of Robinson and Wood kick in, not forgetting Brown's outstanding vocals of course. The track just goes to prove that Classic Rock doesn't need to be played at one hundred miles per hour.
Don't panic! The next track, 'The Way You Make Me Feel', doesn't mean that Rusty and the boys have gone all "Jacko" on us. However, following an up-tempo drum and guitar intro, Pete and Brett's wonderful guitar harmonies are very reminiscent of Thin Lizzy, with Rusty's vocals again reminding me of Nazareth. Robinson's opening riff on 'It's Alright' leads into an excellent spoken vocal delivery from Brown - think of a slower Billy Joel's 'We Didn’t Start The Fire' - before it explodes into a killer chorus of "It's Alright", another cleverly constructed song with its fuzzy guitar solo plus the versatile Rusty sounding a tad like Rod during his Faces era. Most probably the stand out for mine from the album so far. But hold on - what do we have here? The longest track on the album, the appropriately named 'Long Long Day', with the vibe of its intro smacking of 'No Quarter', with a fitting riff to match, sees another slower vocal delivery from Brown, before Robinson lets loose with an incredible solo on this ultimate headbanger, equally matched by its powerful vocal climax. Wow. From the longest to the shortest track on the album. Their single 'Woman' sees Spyda picking up the pace, as Rusty steps back into Plant mode, not to be outdone by the fuzzy Montrose sounding tones of Pete and Brett. A real stormer to finish off the album, which was engineered and mixed by Ricki Rae. To quote Brown "Music has always had something to say when it comes to relationships. This is two and a half minutes of rip-roaring Rock that delivers the punchline." Can't argue with that Rusty.
Just the eight tracks then, with a running time of 35 minutes, from a kickass band with badass sound. But definitely a case of Hard/Blues/Stoner Rock quality not quantity, with oodles of extra scope for taking all these classic tracks that extra mile during their killer live shows. A consummate win win and a real Mother of a Rock album. Hail Mary.
British Rock band Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics recently signed to Listenable Records and to celebrate, the band and the label release a Special Edition of their acclaimed album ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ today, featuring five brand new bonus tracks, consisting of two brand-new studio tracks ‘Undertow’ and ‘Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem’ and three live tracks on the CD version.
Turn the clock back to Ramblin' Man Fair in July 2017 and we interviewed the former Heaven's Basement vocalist and nattily dressed Aaron with his equally stylish sister and Cult Classics guitarist Laurie, who played the Rising Stage on the Saturday. We had seen Aaron and Heaven's Basement supporting Aerosmith at Clapham's Calling Festival just over three year's before and in a really frank discussion Aaron talked about life after Heaven's Basement, how ABATCC got together and their new album 'The Man With Stars On His Knees'.
Go back a further two years and having toured the globe for four years fronting Heaven’s Basement, Buchanan walked out of one band and immediately into a studio just out of London with producer James Curtis-Thomas, guitarist Ryan Woods and Laurie. In the years prior, Curtis-Thomas and Buchanan had spoken many times about producing a record with deep, mature, and colourful content; just a few months later and a stint for Buchanan in Australia where many of the vocals were tracked in a shed just outside Brisbane, the now critically acclaimed and award winning record ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ was born out of a tiny studio just outside London with no hot water or central heating. A true testament to the belief in the music and vision Buchanan had bought to the table.
Since the formation of the Cult Classics in 2016 and the release of ‘The Man With Stars On His Knees’ in May 2017, it has been a rollercoaster ride of tours, shows and festivals. Forever supporters of Buchanan's eclectic, eccentric and left hook vision, Tom McCarthy (guitar) and Laurie have been constants from day one, but in mid-2017 they re-shuffled the line-up and brought in ex-The Defiled (and STOMP) drummer Paul White and ex-Grim Reaper bassist Mart Trail, as Buchanan decided they needed to grow, as did their show. Well the rawer approach with hard guitars and hard singing certainly worked, not only on the evidence of their aforementioned Ramblin' Man set, but also when we saw them vying for band of the day as they closed out The Orange Stage at the O2 Stone Free Festival in June last year and then again supporting The Quireboys at The Forum last September.
As its title suggests, the opening 'Show Me What You're Made Of' is the driving hors d'oeuvre of expansive things to come which, despite its brevity, builds and explodes into life. And sure enough, their debut single 'All The Things You've Said And Done', that originally made the coveted Planet Rock playlist, certainly delivers, with its catchy chorus and Alter Bridge/Daughtry vibe with a touch of a late great Chris Cornell scream at the end, courtesy of Aaron. The bonus on this Special Edition is an additional live acoustic version - with a beautiful vocal duet from the Buchanan clan with Laurie also accompanying Aaron on guitar. You can take Buchanan out of the basement, but you can't take the basement out of Buchanan as testified by the number of Heaven's Basement songs still in their live set. 'Dancin' Down Below' - another single that originally made the Planet Rock playlist - smacks of his former employer's (no problem with that) with a smattering of The Hives thrown in for good measure. With White beating the shit out of his drums, this is a live staple - Buchanan's party trick being to draw the crowd closer into a compact mass to enable to surf his way onto their shoulders, before finishing this song with a headstand whilst still perched precariously on the crowds shoulders. The rakishly thin warbler, all boots and braces, has never been known to be shy.
A microcosm of Buchanan's eclecticism, eccentricity and left hook vision, is another live staple 'The Devil That Needs You' which delightfully twists and turns before departing with a devilish head banging riff that sees Laurie's Fender Telecaster and Tom's Gordon Smith Les Paul style white guitar roar into overdrive. Again this is another track that gets the live Special Edition bonus treatment with another lovely Aaron and Laurie duet, which I believe was also recorded at their Siren 107.3FM session in May 2017. By the way, y'all check out their amazing Youtube cover of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' as well. Seriously. Back to the album, and once again we're thrown another curveball with emotion flowing through the music and lyrics of 'Journey Out Of Here' - its chills very reminiscent of 30 Seconds To Mars and U2. And talking of comparisons, the title, and longest track on the album, is complete affirmation of Aaron being a huge Freddie Mercury fan. Indeed, it's fair to say that the album includes a number of tracks with Queen like harmonies, but this is a serial killer Queen vocal from Buchanan. Also check out Buchanan's Youtube cover of 'Love Of My Life'. Stunning.
Anyway, I digress. 'A God Is No Friend' is another slower paced track with a rasping vocal from Buchanan, before the band pick up the pace with 'Left Me For Dead', another live nugget with some stand out drumming from White. It's fair to say that the band is not all about Mr. Buchanan though. The album crosses so may Rock genres and combines the influences of the band, none more so than Mart Trail's undoubted NWOBHM input on 'Mind Of A Mute' - it's mystical intro descending into a Heavy Metal riff to die for, with the versatile voice of Buchanan sounding very reminiscent of the good old days of Scott Stapp. Would love to see that one live, as I would the next track 'Morals' - which again keeps Freddie's spirit alive and kicking. The good news is that on this Special Edition you also get a live version of 'Morals' plus, to finish off with, two exclusive brand-new studio tracks. Not be confused with Heaven's Basement's firm favourite 'Fire Fire', 'Fire In The Field' was actually the 'B' side of the aforementioned single 'All The Things You've Said And Done'. Still sounding fresh and ace, Aaron strains those fiery vocal chords once again as his sibling gives Slash a run for his money with an outstanding guitar solo. We finally reach 'Undertow', which is real virgin territory, but is thankfully not out of place with the quality that has preceded it. With its pounding beat plus great vocal and guitar harmonies, it definitely complements the original album, and is affirmation, if you needed it, that Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics is still very much in business.
Aaron Buchanan And The Cult Classics are one of those live bands that, even if you don't know any of their songs, they will definitely entertain you, leaving you with a smile on your face. Although, I must admit that it's weird revisiting an album that was originally released 21 months ago, plus a number of songs that I have seen performed live, but on the other hand it does reemphasise what an awesome release it was and this Special Edition is. "I really do not understand why this band isn't more popular" is a quote that manifests itself across many bands nowadays. Well fingers crossed that this 15 track Special Edition not only reaches the masses and gets the attention it fully deserves, but that it also kick starts the direction of the band to the next level, in eager anticipation of some more exceptional brand new material.
When I step out to my local Tuesday night Blues and Roots Club this is exactly what I’d like to hear! Trevor pulls out all the tools for the genre on his solo album ‘Sawdust Man’. Gravel voice (a la Tom Waits/Seasick Steve etc.), guitar (with varying rhythms), harmonica and stomp box.
The title track opens this ten song collective and chugs along like were on a Mississippi boat ride hunting alligators. ’Runaway Train’ motors down the track with some top mouth organ licks on its destination, loving a free spirited woman on the way for all her imperfections. Personal favourite ‘Black Dog’ is a catchy little number down tempo on the previous two, but cleverly laid with swirling guitar licks.
The ‘River Song’ instantly brought similarities to the latest Robert Plant style of Folky/Asian influences that he’s adopted. Trevor switches it up with some heavy doses of slide guitar on ‘Red Boots’ hitting on a jealousy vibe. ’Cat Scratch Fever’, a title made famous by American Rocker Ted Nugent, but no not the same, as Trevor digs deep into his gravely vocal chords and crossfires with harmonica brilliantly on this number.
’Been So Long’ has that really early Quo (Yes, Status) style before they went out and out twelve-bar blues, whilst ’Stranger in Hell’ takes us down tempo with an open a beer and chill mode. ’Something On My Mind’ picks us up kind of Hillbilly in it’s manner, while the closing track ‘Went Out Walking’ rocks with the harmonica/filtered vocal only tune, cleverly bringing us to an end.
While I may direct this to the mid-week Blues and Roots Club goers - it can easily be appealing any day or mood of the week. Get on it people!
It’s fair to say that this young talented singer and songwriter has firmly cemented her growing reputation with this, her second album, a really fine collection of eleven songs recorded in Nashville, with her excellent band and a bunch of session musicians, including a horn section that provide a Muscle Shoals feel to several numbers, as well as closer to home in Wales. The overall feel of the album has an Americana tinged feel, both in the themes of many songs, reflecting no doubt the influence of the number of different co-writers for most songs, as well as the expansive, soulful and Bluesy musical landscape presented, definitely more Western than West Country for this Bristol born singer.
Opening track ‘Hell or High Water’ sets the scene with a distinctive minor key guitar motif that could be the accompaniment to a cinematic view of a gun slinger riding slowly down a cliché main street in a sepia tinged shot; tasteful slide guitar licks help set the scene and single chords played on the down stroke underpin the confident vocals, with the drums entering half way through as a semi-middle eight/chorus starts “May I introduce the shape I’m in, I could write a book from the scars on my skin”, followed by a lovely slide solo. A powerful opener. The theme is continued with ‘Wild, Wild West’ which, after a strummed acoustic opening, launches almost immediately into the chorus “So come and give an eye for the main attraction, I’m going to promise you a real good show, for every lie there’s a chain reaction, through the curtains see the truth unfold, cut throat cheaters, gun slingers, deceivers, we’re in the wild, wild west”. A big anthemic feel and an obvious live crowd pleaser. ‘Deeper’ sounds like you’ve been transplanted back to the mid-70’s to a studio somewhere between Alabama and Memphis and Aretha is outside joking with the horn section while having a smoke; somewhere close by a brown river is chugging lazily through a burning landscape. ‘What’s The Matter With You’, opens with some Bluesy guitar and is all clipped chords, moody organ and nice guitar fills. This wouldn’t be out of place in a Beth Hart set actually.
If it isn’t clear, all these songs are really well crafted, very melodic with great hooks that stay in the memory and have depth. The playing is very sensitive to the songs and really well produced (take a bow Brad Nowell and Steve Blackmon). ‘Medicine Man’ epitomises the feel of the album, a delicious slide intro playing a swampy riff played low down on the neck, played in between the vocal lines “mirrors and smoke and trickery, your very own real life make believe, bring your own money and get in line, two for a nickel, three for a dime, miracle cures for aching bones, but he takes your gold and sells you stones” building up to a powerful chorus and wailing multiple layers of slide. A really good song. The whole album is great: the title track is a big, punchy song with a rocking chord and jangling guitar backing that is straight into the chorus. ‘Help Somebody’ is another catchy number that preaches a global message, “we need to help somebody, try a little tenderness and a whole lot of love” with a clever chord change on the chorus and pumping horns throughout. With a harmonica solo; ‘Foolish Hearts’ is a big Country ballad that possibly points to where this fabulous singer is heading, whilst ‘Little Piece of Heaven’, written with Black Keys man Dan Auerbach, is the most Pop, crossover sounding track, a really catchy ditty.
Elles maturity as a songwriter is displayed on the final track ‘Light In the Distance’, a beautiful song, all her own, inspired by the final days of a friend: “these are weary bones I carry, all I once was, gone before, time to sleep in, endless dreaming, a light aboard from distant shores, but for now hold my hand as I leave for the promised land, because there’s a light in the distance, calling me home, I’m not afraid, this broken body is ready for its soul to roam.” Accompanied only by solo piano, played by Jimmy Nichols, this is a moving piece and shows that the singer is not afraid to move away from the Blues/Country territory she is associated with. There are no duff tracks on this collection, which bears repeated listening and is highly recommended. Is it too soon to ask when the next album is coming? I can’t wait.
Listening to the new album from the formidable Finn you probably won’t be mentally filing it under Blues Rock, if you indeed felt the need to categorise it, which is what you might be expecting from the exciting guitar player and singer. ‘Another World’ sticks out from the seeming plethora of albums by players grounded in the Blues by its wide sonic landscape, flowing out from the narrower confines of the Delta into an ocean of musical ideas, really well recorded, each track bursting out of the speakers electrically charged with engineering and production skills on display.
Opening track ‘Snake In The Grass’ sets the scene with its opening riffing guitars, interweaving to create a distinctly Psychedelic feel, before the vocals kick in. Erja stands apart from many female vocalists on the blues scene by singing in an attractive melodic voice rather than the more common 40 Woodbine a day and half a bottle of Scotch tinged tonsils of other singers. This enables her to write material that is more diverse; the catchy chorus on ‘Snake’ being a case in point, underpinned by strong harmonies the chorus soars above the duelling guitars of Erja and guest guitar shredder Jennifer Batten, and is, to these ears, reminiscent of harmonies on some Hendrix cuts. The layered guitar playing between these two after the middle 8 (quite a rare beast itself) is especially tasty.
The album is chock full of very nice guitar playing, as you might expect, solos, fills and licks being squeezed into every available gap and songs being extended with additional passages of instrumentation to give many of them the feel of mini-Prog like guitar operas. The guitar tone throughout is a fat sustained one that brings the fluid tone and playing of Carlos Santana to mind; no surprise then that ‘Hard as Stone’ was inspired by Erja sharing a stage with the man himself.’This tune features a delightful interlude with harmony guitars that recall the dual guitars of Thin Lizzy. Another guest player, the slide genius that is Sonny Landreth, features on ‘Wedding Day’, a typical song about love gone wrong that is a bit of a theme throughout, which sizzles along and is the most Bluesy number on the collection. In ‘Cherry Overdrive’ Blues style double entendres - “Got a new car, gonna take a ride, a fast ignition, a working transmission” (either that or Erja is a Top Gear fan) - are used over an ambient groove and floating guitar lines.
The title track ‘Another World’ is a big Rock ballad, with a vague lyrical message that is delivered powerfully, and which builds to a shredding, explosive solo where Erja shows off her impressive technique. It’s probably fair to say that there isn’t much going on lyrically in most numbers, despite many being heartfelt, but, as someone who believes that the lyrics are subservient to the quality of the melody and instrumentation of a song (but clearly easier to write about, which is why we read so much guff about songs that are moderately unlistenable but offer some supposed insight into an experience of staring into the void etc - that you’d want to avoid) this is not a criticism, especially when there is so much else going on.
Further examples of the diversity of sounds on offer are provided by ‘Miracle’ with its chiming Jazzy chords and the tale of loss in ‘Torn’ that feature a violin accompaniment and Emerald Isle feel, which could almost be a Corrs song, at least until the big, fat toned guitar comes in. Despite the wide range of influences on show in this collection of songs they have a very homogenous feel, featuring as they do the distinctive Scandinavian, melodic vocals of Erja and her fluid guitar playing over a collection of memorable tunes, beautifully produced. A nice collection and a signpost to further musical adventures from the Finn.
Wily Bo Walker and E D Brayshaw joined forces to write this double album as a story book about three friends (Johnny, Louise and Harry) and the paths they take. From the accompanying booklet and first listen these guys have put a lot of time and energy into this project.
Wily’s vocal is the first thing that strikes out, the gravel tone voice that could be described as a cross between Chris Rea and Mark Knopfler gives the songs a British feel against an Americana sound that they’ve produced. E D Brayshaw's guitar work instantly reminded me of Thin Lizzy style guitar players’ a la Gary Moore and Brian Robertson and the classy female backing vocals from Karena K complements the material perfectly.
Thirteen songs may sound like a single album, but many of the tracks are more than four minutes long, normally found in the Prog world. Kicking off with what I would call the radio single ‘Storm Warming’, a mid-pace rocker, followed by a more chilled number in the form of ‘I Want To Know’ and the hypnotic ‘Motel Blues’ open side one.
’Loan Me A Dime’ is slow Bluesy number you could imagine playing in a gangster’s smoky back bar, whilst ‘September Red’ brightens up the room with a vocal gathering and a immense guitar solo from E D in the latter half of the track. The loose acoustic style ‘Killers On The Run’ closes side 1.
Album two opens up with two gutsy Rock and Rollers in the form of ‘Running Wild’ and ‘Night Of The Hunter’. In at number three finds the guys in a lighter shade of Americana, reminiscent of some early ‘Eagles’ material, with ‘Tennessee Blues’. ’
After the Storm’ follows a steady path to what, in my opinion, is the album’s best song ‘The Ballad Of Johnny & Louise’. A brilliant epic composition with all the elements of a massive hit song (and it should be). Hats off ladies and gents for this one! The title track ‘The Roads We Ride’ follows along a Springsteen style highway with a reprise of ‘Storm Warning’ to end.
So, we have a story for the lyric lovers and plenty of variety for the Blues/Rock listener. Tune in people!
It’s interesting to read reviews and press releases about musicians you know nothing about; however it’s often a double edged sword as along with the heads up background info’ comes a whole pile of hyperbole and print sized summary headlines that you end up rebelling against in order to avoid the same clichés and adding to the chorus of claims that whoever is being reviewed is the absolute new bees knees. Sometimes it’s easier to follow the flow. Accordingly, Lethbridge Owen is a Pop-Rock/Folk-Rock outfit that are dead ringers for Rumours era Fleetwood Mac (not really!), which is one way of looking at it.
Another way is to describe them as incorporating a number of varying influences, that certainly includes Folk, that results in a distinctive and impressive sound; the rich acoustic guitar picking tones displayed throughout this enjoyable collection of songs are reminiscent of the tone and inventiveness of a number of UK guitarists that came out of the 1960’s Folk scene (Bert Jansch and John Renbourn for example) and Kelly Lethbridge’s vocals have that unaffected Folk purity but with a very warm melodic tone that has a bit of a Country feel (they can add Country Rock to the list of sound-alike genres!).
This combination is evident on ‘Leaving Home’, which even adds a bit of fiddle towards the end. The picking is particularly nice on ‘From Now On’. Kelly’s voice is very listenable and her layered harmonies on these tracks are lovely, adding a lot of depth to what is a beautifully recorded and well produced album. The opening track ‘All We Have Is Hope’ is the standout track on a standout collection, crammed full of hooks and different vocal melodies. The slight inflection given on the single word “Yeah” which forms part of the chorus is a real ear-worm that grabs the attention, simple but effective. A lot of time and thought has clearly gone into arriving at the lush arrangements of these songs, which are full of catchy instrumental sections and multiple stops and pushes.
The other real distinctive feature of these songs is the excellent guitar work by co-leader Jimmy Owen. You can see where the Mac comparisons come from, an easy on the eye male and female singer songwriter combo, one of whom is a special guitar player that can Rock out where required. However, Jimmy Owen’s guitar work is much more prominent, taking flight on most songs in bursts of powerful melodic lines that are a real feature and contribute hugely to the rich arrangements and overall feel.
Hendrix is quoted as an influence and it shows, as the solos have a real bite. A number of songs are upbeat and rocky, like ‘Two Steps Forward’ (or even a bit Funky, like on ‘Back To The Blue’) without compromising the melodic content or breaking up the homogenous feel of the album. I’ve been playing this album non-stop without remotely getting to the point of overfamiliarity; it’s a collection that bears repeated listening and whets the appetite for hearing them live as well as raising expectations about what they will produce next. When it comes to genre descriptions perhaps its best just to file this under “good music”.
Following their last album ‘Ride of Your Life’, the four-piece all girl band JoanovArc release their follow up on Friday 31st May with the self titled ‘JoanovArc’. An eleven song unashamed commercial Rock outing, which if I said to you, mix The Cult with Texas and The Foo Fighters, you would get an idea of the direction and influences the girls have acquired/adopted over the years.
For the lyric lover this not a collection of silly love songs, no we are dealing with the London riots of 2011, drug addiction, two-faced friends, reflection, denial, delusion and mixed emotions to name a few subject matters. The opening track ‘Burning’ for me is the top number simply on strength of the epic chorus, followed closely by ‘Down By the River’ with ‘Waiting For’ sandwiched in-between making a good opening three.
The anthemic ‘People Coming Up’ hits on the high and lows of drug taking with some clever production work mid-song to bring us up in the latter half while ‘Take It Out’ Rocks us to the middle. In at number six we drop tempo for a catchy easy listening acoustic singer-songwriter style (even Noel Gallagher influenced) number in the form of ‘When We Were Young’.
Laura Ozholl (rhythm guitar and vocals) distinctively Sharleen Spiteri style vocal is laid out on ‘Try it On’ and the recent single release ‘Jane’. Samantha Walker (bass & vocals) returns to the main vocal with the Bluesy Rocker in the form of ‘This Way’ and the more Grunge inspired ‘Slipping Away’. Closing out the album is the smooth vocal laden acoustic ‘Go Home’, a cool way to end this well crafted collection of songs.
Let’s not forget to mention the competent guitar playing of Shelley Walker riffing and soloing throughout which can only be admired along with the backbone of the outfit Deborah Wildish on drums.
Mixed and mastered by former ‘King King’ drummer Wayne Proctor, adds a polished coating to the album that will suit both mainstream as well as Rock radio. Put Friday 31st of May in your diary whatever your format ladies and gentlemen!
All of us bemoan the bands we never saw, but what about the ones we regret not seeing more often because we thought there would always be more opportunities? Top of the latter list for me would be the late great Rory Gallagher. Before he left us, suddenly on 14th June 1995 at the age of only 46, I’d only seen him play live twice (electric at the Marquee in Wardour Street and acoustic at the Dominion in Tottenham Court Road); we’d even walked past each other in the street in Soho, but I was too surprised and starstruck to say anything! Regrets…
Although Rory’s back catalogue has been re-mastered and reissued, there have been relatively few posthumous releases, but Universal has gone some way to rectifying that with this excellent three disc anthology; three dozen slices of prime Rory, appropriately on the reactivated Chess Blues imprint, and nearly all of them previously unreleased.
The electric disc kicks off with a rowdy ‘Don’t Start Me Talkin’ from the ‘Jinx’ (1982) sessions, then follows it with Lightnin’ Slim’s downhome ‘Nothin’ But The Devil’ from the ‘Against The Grain’ (1975) sessions. The even earlier ‘Blueprint’ (1973) sessions provide a fine version of Freddie King’s ‘Tore Down’, which highlights the close interplay between Rory and Lou Martin’s piano.
A slow, smouldering, late night ‘Off The Handle’, with Gerry McAvoy on bass and Brendan O’Neill on drums, is from a 1986 Paul Jones Show for BBC Radio, while a much earlier radio session, for Cleveland’s WNCR-FM in 1972, showcases a different side of Rory. Accompanied by Martin, McAvoy and drummer Rod de’Ath in the audience free Agora Ballroom, Rory reduces the volume for ‘I Could’ve Had Religion’ and plays slide guitar and harmonica in a spiritually oriented tribute to the likes of Son House and Blind Gary Davis.
There’s a rather heavier slide workout on ‘As The Crow Flies’ from the “Tattoo” (1973) sessions and the same year provides a fine ‘A Million Miles Away’ from a BBC Radio 1 session. The “Deuce” (1971) sessions offer up two versions of ‘Should’ve Learned My Lesson’ and the electric one allows Rory to pay homage to heroes like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Otis Rush.
Leaping forward to 1994 we get one of Rory’s final recordings, ‘Leaving Town Blues’ from a Peter Green tribute album ‘Rattlesnake Guitar’; Rory plays the intro on mandolin, before soloing on slide guitar. Sleepy John Estes’ ‘Drop Down Baby’ features Rory guesting on guitar for Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Puttin’ On The Style’ (1978) album, while a horn driven ‘I’m Ready’ showcases a similar guest spot on Muddy Waters’ “London Sessions” (1971). The electric disc ends with another track from the 1972 radio session in Cleveland, a piano driven ‘Bullfrog Blues’ with plenty of slide guitar.
The acoustic disc opens with an unaccompanied ‘Who’s That Coming’ from the Tattoo (1973) sessions, with Rory playing his metal bodied National resophonic guitar. The second version of ‘Should’ve Learnt My Lesson’, from the “Deuce” (1971) sessions is also played solo, recalling Big Bill Broonzy’s flatpicking style, while the duet with Lou Martin on ‘Prison Blues’, from the “Blueprint” (1973) sessions, shows the influence of barrelhouse pianist Leroy Carr and guitarist Scrapper Blackwell.
A solo performance for the Irish TV show “Me And My Music” saw the return of the National for ‘Secret Agent’, which Rory began with the instrument flat on his lap, before launching into a John Lee Hooker style boogie beat. The following ‘Blow Wind Blow’, by Muddy Waters, comes from the 1972 Cleveland radio session and is reminiscent of Blind Boy Fuller and Brownie McGhee.
Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘Bankers Blues’ also comes from the “Blueprint” (1973) sessions, although it features Rory on six-string guitar, rather than the twelve-string which was used on that album. Next up is ‘Whole Lot Of People’ from the “Deuce” (1971) sessions, before a leap forward to 1987 for a German TV recording of ‘Loanshark Blues’ on the National.
The exuberant flatpicking cover of Blind Boy Fuller’s ‘Pistol Slapper Blues’ is Rory’s other selection from the 1976 Irish TV show, while the remaining three acoustic songs showcase Rory’s later years. Muddy’s ‘Can’t Be Satisfied’ was recorded solo for German TV in 1992, Hooker’s ‘Want Ad Blues’ on the National is from Dave Fanning’s Irish radio show in 1988 and ‘Walkin’ Blues’, with Mark Feltham on harmonica, was taped for Irish TV in 1987.
The live disc kicks off with Rory, McAvoy and O’Neill nearly stripping the paint off the walls of the Glasgow Apollo with a trio of songs recorded in May 1982: ‘When My Baby She Left Me’, ‘Nothin’ But The Devil’ and ‘What In The World’. From an unspecified date later in that decade comes ‘I Wonder Who’, which again highlights Rory’s interplay with Feltham.
These are followed by three 1977 tracks from City Hall gigs: Junior Wells’ ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ is from Sheffield, as is ‘Garbage Man Blues’, while sandwiched between them is ‘Tore Down’ from the Newcastle show. The 11 minute ‘All Around Man’, from a 1976 BBC Whistle Test special, is set to Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Little Red Rooster’ lick, yet also owes a debt to Hendrix’ ‘Voodoo Chile’.
‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, with Jack Bruce, comes from a 1991 “Rockpalast” show for German TV, while ‘You Upset Me’ is an apparently unrehearsed guest appearance with Albert King from 1975. The last music we hear is another guest solo on ‘Comin’ Home Baby’ from a 1989 concert with Chris Barber’s band; a short track, featuring Rory talking about the Blues, rounds off the three disc set.
Given that much of the content is previously unreleased, this set, which retails at just under £20, represents excellent value for anyone who loves Rory’s playing. Indeed, the fact that it is separated into electric, acoustic and live discs might also make it a perfect introduction for anyone not yet familiar with the man and his music.
CD1 - Electric
Don’t Start Me Talkin’; Nothin’ But The Devil; Tore Down; Off The Handle; I Could’ve Had Religion; As The Crow Flies; A Million Miles Away; Should’ve Learnt My Lesson; Leaving Town Blues; Drop Down Baby; I’m Ready; Bullfrog Blues.
CD2 – Acoustic
Who’s That Coming; Should’ve Learnt My Lesson; Prison Blues; Secret Agent; Blow Wind Blow; Bankers Blues; Whole Lot Of People; Loanshark Blues; Pistol Slapper Blues; Can’t Be Satisfied; Want Ad Blues; Walkin’ Blues.
CD3 – Live
When My Baby She Left Me; Nothin’ But The Devil; What In The World; I Wonder Who; Messin’ With The Kid; Tore Down; Garbage Man Blues; All Around Man; Born Under A Bad Sign; You Upset Me; Comin’ Home Baby; Rory Talking Blues.
The Supersonic Blues Machine ‘Road Chronicles: Live’ album captures a sensational, sizzling, supersonically charged performance of a great set of songs that make you wish you’d caught one of the dates on their 10-day European tour made during 2018, which ended in Italy, where the album was recorded. The whole idea of SBM is an enticing one, seemingly a simple enough idea of having a core unit of drum and bass men, Kenny Aronoff and Fabrizio Grossi, collaborating with a wet dream list of guest guitar players and singers.
This type of project often ends up with the sum being much less than the individual parts (a bit like the way the England football team operated for many years) but not with this dream team. The first album ‘West of Flushing, South of Frisco’ was one of the better albums of 2016 and they successfully followed it up with ‘Californisoul’, both containing knock out songs, many of which feature in this superb live memento of this particular incarnation of the band in full flight.
When I saw their excellent UK debut performance at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in 2017, Lance Lopez was handling lead vocal and guitar duties (with some guest assistance from the amazing Eric Gales). On this occasion the heavy lifting on vocals and guitar for the first half of the set was supplied by the very busy Kris Barras (he’s everywhere!), with the bearded legend that is Billy Gibbons joining for the second half of the set.
So, this is effectively a two for the price of one best of SBM and ZZT, plus some old classics like ‘Got My Mojo Working’ and ‘Dust My Broom’, which the band manage to breathe a bit of life into. It’s a real blast from beginning to end, a winning combination of Bluesy guitar with a funky, soulful groove, epitomised in the opening number ‘Am I Done Missing You’, the contribution of the two female backing singers taking the sound to a higher level.
Playing with SBM seems to bring out the best in their guest artists and Kris Barras is in fine voice throughout, especially on the anthemic ‘Remedy’ and his guitar playing, beautifully fluid, with a fatter tone than on his own gigs. Once Billy G joins proceedings we get ‘La Grange’ and ‘Running Whiskey’ etc. and the party continues like an extended encore. There’s not a foot put wrong on this collection and it’s going to be remembered as one of the stand out live albums of the period. Brilliant stuff!
Savoy Brown is something of a British Blues/Rock institution, having been formed in 1965 as the Savoy Brown Blues Band by guitarist Kim Simmonds and harmonica player John O’Leary. Sadly, O’Leary, who is still active on the London Blues scene, never recorded with the band and soon departed after a disagreement with the band’s manager, Kim’s brother Harry. That rather set the tone for an ever-changing cast of band members, with Kim remaining as the only constant feature.
For many fans the band’s heyday was 1967-1970, when it recorded a handful of fine albums on Decca with Chris Youlden providing strong vocal contributions. His departure, followed by those of second guitarist “Lonesome” Dave Peverett and the band’s rhythm section, who then formed the fine rock band Foghat, left Kim very much in sole control.
Savoy Brown’s popularity in the USA led Kim to relocate there and the band’s UK visits have become less frequent as a consequence, yet there remains a great affection for the band. This was quite evident when ‘City Lights’ was showcased at Under The Bridge (the 550 capacity club at Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge stadium) on 12th April, with Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack providing appropriate support (indeed some of those present could remember Stan’s own brief 1974 stint as a Savoy Brown guitarist!).
Whether due to a mellowing with age or for some other reason, Savoy Brown’s ever changing cast is a thing of the past and Kim has led the same trio for the past decade; his vocals and guitar are now ably supported by the rhythm section of Pat DeSalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums). After a handful of well-received albums on the German label Ruf Records, ‘City Lights’ represents the band’s debut for the California based Quarto Valley Records.
The opening track ‘Walking On Hot Stones’ has a rhythm reminiscent (at least to these ears) of David Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’; this is no bad thing, of course, and doesn’t detract in any way from Simmonds’ fine guitar work. Indeed, even at the age of 71, Kim could still give any Blues/Rock guitarist a proper run for their money!
The same recipe of rock solid rhythm underpinning Simmonds’ soaring guitar continues until almost the midway point of the dozen tracks; it never becomes boring, but some may have preferred the light and shade which a bit of variation in tempo might have provided. Track six, ‘Neighborhood Blues’ starts slower, before increasing the pace, and the following ‘Selfish World’, a classic slow Blues, is the album’s standout song for me, partly because it is so different from the others. The return to up tempo for the final few tracks culminates in ‘Ain’t Gonna Worry’, which has the sort of boogie rhythm which would have made John Lee Hooker smile.
The absence of the band’s classics from the Under The Bridge setlist suggests that the band is confident about its new material and, with Simmonds displaying an energy in his playing which belies his advancing years, there looks to be plenty of gas left in the Savoy Brown tank. Anyone who enjoys Blues/Rock guitar played in the classic trio format will find plenty to enjoy in ‘City Lights’.
Walking On Hot Stones; Don’t Hang Me Out To Dry; Payback Time; Red Light Mama; Conjure Rhythm; Neighborhood Blues; Selfish World; Wearing Thin; City Night; Hang In Tough; Superstitious Woman; Ain’t Gonna Worry.
Well I’ve seen Danny Bryant live three times in the last four years and look forward to his forthcoming Autumn tour which starts in London this September. Never been disappointed especially when someone like Danny knows his craft and interestingly brings this kind of Oliver Reed presence to his on stage persona. His new album ‘Means Of Escape’ hits all platforms physical and digital on Friday 20th September.
While some of the Blues Rockers of recent years are moving to a more mainstream Rock direction, Danny is sticking to his guns firing loud and proud in the two openers ‘Tired Of Trying’ and ‘Too Far Gone’. In at number three, the soon to be released single and title track ‘Means Of Escape’ which should satisfy the Blues-Rock radio guys with some hints of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ in it’s make-up.
Song of the Album for me (apart from the instrumental masterpiece at the end) is ‘Nine Lives’ hitting deep into riff country. ‘Skin And Bone’ brings a break in an acoustic form, while ‘Warning Signs’ brings us back into the heavy Blues rhythm machine.
A piano intro on the ballad ‘When The River Ends’ falls right into Gary Moore territory followed by ‘Hurting Time’ with Danny unleashing the slide guitar techniques he’s well known for.
Well the closing track ‘MYA’ is with a capital ‘E’ Epic and one for the musos! It’s a five minute instrumental, but could quite easily be double that maybe with some minimal vocal and 3 female backing singers added. Just saying-might be worth a re-visit with the follow up or with his Big Band.
Apart from Danny’s immense guitar playing and gravel style vocal, he’s also taken the reigns as producer for the first time at the Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, with the songs crossing the Atlantic to be mixed by Eddie Spear in Nashville (Rival Sons/U2) and mastered in London at Abbey Road by Sean Magee (Gary Moore/Stones).
This is my first introduction to this German Hard Rock outfit from the Rheingau, but I would have guessed they were more from the mid-west of America with their brand of Rock. ’Nothing But Wild’ is actually their fourth album, which was released on Friday 2nd August on Napalm Records. Recent support slots with the likes of Kiss, The Dead Daisies, Saxon and the forthcoming Scorpions tour is their type of audience, but also there’s an under-current within their material of the New Country from a few years back, a ‘la the likes of Keith Urban, evident on this album.
Two fine openers in the form of ‘Soundtrack of My Life’, ’Can’t Stop Rock and Roll’ along with the single ‘Down By the River’ kick-start a journey ideal to crank up on your motorway or highway trip, although there’s a break in pace with ‘The Bullet’, a well-crafted Rock ballad. The pace is picked up once again to reach my personal favourite track, ‘Give & Take’, riffing in at track 10, through to the radio friendly ‘Glory Road’ completing this 13-track album. There’s also two acoustic bonus songs revisiting ‘Down By the River’ and ‘Fighting You Leaving Me’.
Depending on your choice of listening, definitely value for money for the Melodic/AOR Rock fan with a collection of faultless performances from Timmy Rough (vocals), Norman Bites (guitar), Hardy (bass) and Urban Berz (drums). Look forward to seeing them when they tour the UK again.
There are your bog standard record and DVD releases and there are special events that are accompanied by the release of CD’s and DVD’s (not forgetting Blue Ray format, digipak and coffee table book - all that’s missing is a limited edition Sporran) and which are trumpeted in this case by a cinema release of the film made of the final two end of an era shows by the Scottish group and Highland treasure, Runrig. I always think it’s tempting fate to announce retirement concerts; rather like the final days of a sale, they can come around again…and again (hello Status Quo!) as performers realise that reading the Sunday paper doesn’t have the same allure as standing on stage in front of adoring fans.
However, in this case, after 45 years together and 14 albums under their belt the original members have earned the right to stand down, although if the excellently edited (no less than 30 cameras were used to capture the special event) concert footage is anything to go by there is plenty of life left in the old dogs yet. The concerts, played out picturesquely in the shadow of Stirling Castle in front of a total of 52,000 hardcore fans and featuring a total of 31 career spanning songs were clearly emotional occasions. The music Runrig played (that sounds horribly final) was a kind of full on unique mixture of Gaelic Folk and stadium Rock. The Folk influence meant that the subject matter of their songs had an emotional depth and range that made them stand out from the average bunch of Rockers and their Rock influences provided the power to wow large audiences around the world.
While founding members Rory and Calum McDonald provide the heart of the band (not to mention the songs) the excellent guitar work of long time member Malcom Jones shines across these tracks (particularly during ‘On the Edge’ which is a beautiful instrumental that sounds like a subdued Jeff Beck covering the Theme From ‘Local Hero’), most of which have an anthemic, rousing quality which is displayed from opening track ‘The Years We Shared’ with its thumping drums, ringing guitar and synth lines, onwards. The following track ‘Protect & Survive’ epitomising their sound, Big Country style guitar lines and a big sing-a-long chorus that the audience joined in with gusto.
Sitting on the top of the music are the powerful, excellent vocals of Bruce Guthro, the Nova Scotian singer (whose transatlantic twang is a little disconcerting at first) who joined the band in 1999 following the departure of original vocalist Donnie Munro, who makes an emotional re-appearance on these two nights accompanied by the Glasgow Islay Choir on a lovely rendition of ‘Cearcal A’ Chuain’. Various guest musicians appear throughout these tracks, the addition of sax on ‘Onar’ giving the band an oddly Gaelic E Street band vibe. The duet with Julie Fowlis on ‘Somewhere’ is another highlight. There isn’t a duff track across the entire 3 CD collection (or two CD’s if you are a lightweight fan!) and by the time the collection finishes with fans’ favourite finisher ‘Loch Lomond’ followed by a rousing version of ‘Hearts of Olden Glory’ you’ll wish you had been there, unsuccessfully holding back the tears. A classic live album and film that for many will be an essential purchase.
The short version of this album review is: brilliant! Go out and buy/download it etc. immediately!
Being the son of a famous musician doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be any good with an instrument or avoid having a tin ear, but in the case of Devon Allman, son of Gregg Allman, and Duane Betts, son of Allman Brothers’ guitarist Dicky Betts, the apples have fallen very close to the tree, and despite this being a debut album, this fine collection of songs display a real maturity; while sounding as fresh as any contemporary Blues influenced record, it also manages to sound like it could have been recorded sometime during the early to mid-70’s. It helps that the songs were recorded down at Muscle Shoals on analogue equipment, to give them additional authenticity.
Each song is a gem and opener ‘All Night’ sets the standard for what follows. A Southern voice intones “1, 2, 3, 4” and a really cool chordal riff comes in - somewhere between the Stones and the Heartbreakers - as a descending guitar line links the chorus to the solo - which is a nimbly played, lyrical collection of notes, rather than a fret wang. This is a powerful and catchy number, the sort that fans will go mental over when they hear the opening riff blast out of the speakers (it’s got live opener written all over it).
Filling out the sound is some excellent keyboard work. The keys are superb on every track, not surprising when you learn that the Hammond is being played by Peter Levin, who performed that role with Gregg Allman, and that legendary keyboardist Chuck Leavell, is also featured throughout. It’s in the bands’ DNA, so not surprising that the sound as well as the spirit of the Allman Brothers abounds this album (the AB connection is also cemented by having bassist Berry Duane Oakley on board, son of founding Brother Berry Oakley). Second track ‘Shinin’” opens up with the trademark Allman’s twin guitar attack and then chunders along in full boogie mode, with slide guitar filling in every available moment. ‘Try’, a slower number, features some distinctive backing vocals on the chorus and lovely melodic guitar motif.
The opening languid notes of ‘Autumn Breeze’ are so Allman Brothersesque it’s ridiculous, when halfway through there is an extended section with two fat guitars playing in melodic unison, leading onto a beautiful solo as the band kick it out in the background. It’s like being in a time machine, only requiring the accompaniment of a 1930’s Disney short cartoon and the voice of Whispering Bob to sign it off. This is not to say that the Allman Betts band are mere revivalists; they don’t shy away from their collective musical roots, which you can hear, clear as an Alabama day, but have, in writing a fine collection of songs (with the assistance of songwriter Stoll Vaughan) created something fresh and interesting.
‘Melodies Are Memories’ again sounds like classic era Allman Brothers, with its fluid, limpid and quite lovely slide guitar throughout, and combination of jaunty Country beat interspersed with dynamic crescendos. A version of Tom Petty’s ‘Southern Accents’ is a standout track and reminds you of what a good songwriter the lamented Heartbreaker was as well as highlighting the really strong vocals on display.
It’s really hard to define individual musical preferences, but for me this album hits all the right spots; there are only nine songs in this debut collection but it’s definitely quality over quantity: great songs, great vocals and great guitar playing; one of the albums of the year.
Infectious . . . A Gem . . . Unique . . . Masterful Storytellers . . . Excellent
Songwriting . . . Artists . . . Musically Brilliant . . . Emotionally Stirring . . . Lovely Harmonies . . . just a few words to describe Indie Rock band Flight Brigade's new studio album 'Chased by Wolves'! It will be released tomorrow Friday 13th
September on Rebel Cinema Records via Wixen Music Publishing. The new albumfollows their debut album 'Our Friends Our Enemies' (2016) and a number of
singles. I first heard them play in March this year at Camden's Dingwalls on a photo assignment and this band continues to be the highlight of the year and thenew release does not disappoint. The gig itself was truly spectacular. For a relatively unknown band performing, sadly, to a small, but very appreciative
audience, to pull off a professional, energetic and enthusiastic performance is
very rare and Flight Brigade definitely delivered that.
The only problem I had reviewing this album, and it was a serious problem, is that I couldn't stop from repeating each song multiple, multiple times. It took a
long time to get through the album, but thankfully to the excellent narratives
(read the narrative for the song 'Sirens') of each song on this album
(www.flightbrigade.com), and very late nights, I heard each song . . . multiple
times! It really is my favourite album in years, it is excellent. I know we all have
different perspectives; we hear differently but I would encourage you to listen to
this album; you won't be disappointed. I still don't understand what in the world people see in the Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' but I must be wrong as it is widely
considered to be among the most influential albums in the history of music . . .
Music for me has always been about transport . . . transporting me to difference
. . . difference from where I was, who I was and who I wanted to be, to change my emotions or to give me energy or the ability to relax . . . music is a gift for us all. Ithas been a privilege to listen to this album - it transports! Flight Brigade’s sound
has been described as distinctive as it is unique. Infectious melodies and hooks
flow through songs that at times exude fierce energy, and at others gentle
poignancy. With grand orchestral sweeps embracing crunching, anthemic guitars,vocal harmonies, strings and vintage synths, their explosive live performances
feel like it’s their last day on earth! Beautiful melodies, lovely and soaring vocal
harmonies, superb musicianship with crafty songwriting and musical
arrangements, Flight Brigade's music will certainly appeal to a wide cross section of music lovers. Their music has a real punch!
Flight Brigade is a Hampshire based seven-piece band of family members and friends. At the core of Flight Brigade is an actual family. Ollie (on vocals and
rhythm guitar) is married to Miriam (vocals/synth), whose sister Dorry Macaulay sings and plays violin. All three grew up in a hippy commune in Hampshire, while bassist Tom Clay, guitarist Thomas Pink, keyboard player Jonny Barker and
drummer Neil Blandford were childhood friends who lived nearby. Think of FlightBrigade as a family and you start to understand the chemistry between them.
Consider their songs as epic stories to which each member is essential, and you
begin to grasp what makes their music so powerful.
Other reviewers have described their dreamy vintage synth melodies, striking
mix of vocal harmonies and dramatic violin infused soundscapes having a
contemporary sound that conjures up images of the likes of Arcade Fire, the
alluring anthemic style of The Killers and Fleetwood Mac, whilst Ollie’s intense,
storytelling lyrics set them apart. Touring extensively and playing the major UK
festivals including Glastonbury, Bestival and The Great Escape, Flight Brigade
have garnered a reputation from fans and critics alike for exceptional and
explosive live performances. One such performance, at ‘The Castle’ in
Manchester in March 2017 caught the ear of esteemed producer Chris Porter
(George Michael, Elton John, Bowie). Porter promptly invited the band to record
this second album at the Visconti Studio.
The band’s new release, 'Chased by Wolves', includes intriguing stories but also
hits a more personal nerve. Songwriter and lyricist, Ollie Baines draws from his
own experience of the beauty and fragility of relationships ('Heartbreaker', 'Tinderbox') and surviving unlawful advice from the ‘wolves’ of the music industry ('Chased By Wolves'). 'Brainwave' pays homage to Seth Baines, brother of lead
singer Ollie, and his courageous battle with epilepsy. Thomas Pink combines
magnificently with Ollie on guitar on this genuinely Rock 'n' Roll song. Since the
album was recorded, Seth was diagnosed with brain cancer and tragically passed away in November last year. The album is dedicated to Seth, the band’s brother,
videomaker and greatest supporter.
As for 'Sirens' . . . my eyes began to leak when I read the narrative to this song,
personal experiences in my life as a therapist reminded me of the frailness that
one may be experiencing and their closest loved ones may not even be aware. I
have been in those rooms when they became "hushed" - still some of the most
powerful moments I have experienced. Then listening to the craftmanship of the song and the lyrical content - it was such an accurate description of life being stuck in addiction or mental challenges. I hope this song gets the attention it
deserves in an age where social media has become so influential in how our
children maintain their mental health. The song, 'Stranger Things', is described asoriginating in the bleary half light of a 5am start. I was woken by my one year old,turned on the radio and heard a sequence of morning news reports; ‘Trump’s
latest tweet, more fake news and an update on the Brexit saga’. All that just mademe think, 'Is this sleep deprivation or have pirates taken over this ship?'. We
surely will see stranger things to come.
'Alligators' is a grandson’s tribute to his veteran grandfather. The song follows thestory of Leslie James Pink, our guitarist's grandfather, who at 17, disguised his
age so he could join the Royal Air Force during World War II. 'Where Eagles Dare'
is my favourite song so far, my iPhone has even asked that I take it off repeat,
phones are getting much to smart. This song could become one of their Rock
anthems, a powerful, celebratory Rock song with arena Rock sound potential andwhen the chorus starts at the 33 second mark, I think you will agree. I get
transported to the middle of 20,000 music lovers pumping their fists in the air as I envision the band performing on stage this epic song.
'How Your River Runs Through Me' is a song based on Cormac McCarthy’s
novel ‘The Road’ which particularly resonated with Ollie after the birth of his and Miriam’s first son, Coen. He places himself and Coen in the post apocalyptic
world which he so masterfully creates and they are journeying to the coast in search of a community that could be their last and only hope of survival.
'Creature' is steeped in the band’s shared love of Tolkien. The song pays homage to the mystical world of Middle Earth and describes a scene where someone is
running through a wood and encounters a mythical creature that offers passage
to an eternal, alternative world, much like the Elven Blessed Realm in Lord Of TheRings. The only thing holding that person back from accepting the offer is their
love of someone mortal, even though that love has always been unrequited.
In a review by New Sick Music they stated . . . Flight Brigade is on a warpath to
making history… a bit of Muse, compared to My Morning Jacket, but ultimately what we hear is a dark, orchestral and narrative-driven tour de force! 'Chased By Wolves' is another step in that warpath . . . now where is my iPhone!
The difficulties faced by new artists trying to make their names must be onerous, but are hardly helped by promotional material, which leaves them with an impossible task. The press release for this album, which seems to have been released in the USA at the start of 2018, states that one track (‘Looking Glass’) “resurrects specters (sic) of Hendrix and Joplin”; really?! I mean, come on, give the girl half a chance!
All I knew in advance of this CD’s arrival was that Hannah had recently played on Joe Bonamassa’s Blues Cruise (which suggested that I might expect some Blues or Blues/Rock) and that she is about to tour as part of Planet Rock’s Roadstars package with Piston and Gorilla Riot (which suggested something heavier). In practice, to these ears, there’s a whole lot more Rock than Blues and some of it is fairly heavy.
The band sounds like a classic power trio line-up of guitar (Hannah), bass and drums, but her bandmates get no mention in the press release; online searching, including in the artist’s own website, also failed to identify them. The leader herself has been playing since the age of eight, gigging since she was thirteen, and has now reached the ripe old age of twenty-two. I think it’s entirely understandable if she’s still trying to find her own voice and comparisons with the likes of Joplin hardly do her any favours.
The music itself is pretty full-on from the outset; ‘Bomb Through The Breeze’, which was the album’s first single, is about dealing with someone who is too loud by being louder still! ‘Ghost’ is about “the fury of loneliness”, while ‘Looking Glass’, as previously mentioned, signally fails to evoke either Jimi or Janis.
‘Mama Said’ calms things a bit and reminded me a little of Waddy Wachtel’s guitar work with Stevie Nicks, while ‘On The Road’ perhaps has a hint of Sheryl Crow about the vocal. ‘Crushin’ then ramps up the volume again and ‘Strawberry Moon’ is described as having “power ballad intensity”; that feeling continues through ‘Too Close To You’ and ‘Meet You Again’.
The acoustic closer ‘Shadow Boxes And Porcelain Faces’, which is the latest single apparently, was, for me, the album’s best track; the volume elsewhere is rather relentless and I wonder whether Shadow Boxes might have appeared earlier in the track listing to break things up a little.
Those who might want to judge for themselves how much of the recent PR hype is justified, can catch Hannah in London when the Roadstars package rolls into Islington Academy on Friday 11th October.
Bomb Through The Breeze; Ghost; Looking Glass; Mama Said; On The Road; Crushin; Strawberry Moon; Too Close To You; Meet You Again; Shadow Boxes And Porcelain Faces.
Samantha Fish first came to the attention of most of us as a Blues/Rock guitar slinger in the Girls With Guitars package tour, which also included Dani Wilde in 2011; the same year also saw the release of her ‘Runaway’ album. Together with ‘Black Wind Howlin’ (2013), these albums generated a core fan base, which helped to fill the smaller clubs whenever she visited the UK.
And a fairly regular visitor she has been too, although I last saw her play live when her German record company Ruf Records organised a double-header tour with Mike Zito; this was probably to promote her ‘Wild Heart’ (2015) album. Since then she has made a conscious effort to diversify from the Blues into other genres and, having not heard the 2017 pair of ‘Chills & Fever’ or ‘Belle Of The West’, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her new offering, especially as Rolling Stone magazine had listed her as a “new Country artist to watch”.
Having moved from Ruf to Rounder, I think Americana would be a suitably broad term to cover Ms Fish’s many influences. She can certainly play guitar and there’s definitely still some Blues in the mix, but there’s also a Country tinge to some of the vocals, as well as some Southern Soul (think Stax or Muscle Shoals). That last influence is hardly surprising, given that ‘Kill Or Be Kind’ was recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis.
The opener ‘Bulletproof’ hits the tarmac running, with an insistent boogie that feels like it’s made up of ZZ Top and Seasick Steve in equal parts; wonderful stuff! The title track introduces the horn section to good effect, as well as featuring some fine keyboard and guitar work. The horns are there again on ‘Love Letters’, while the Southern Soul feel increases further with the introduction of the two female backing singers on ‘Watch It Die’, which also boasts a fine guitar outro.
There’s more sweet guitar on ‘Trying Not To Fall In Love With You’ and ‘Love Your Lies’, which make ‘Fair-Weather’, which sits between them, feel rather lightweight by comparison. The ballads ‘Dream Girl’ and ‘She Don’t Live Around Here Anymore’ (the latter of which has, to these ears, the strongest Country influence) are also rather lighter in feel.
‘Dirty’ and ‘You Got It Bad’ don’t reach the energy levels of some of the earlier tracks, although ‘You Got It Bad’ has a particularly strong vocal. I’m not sure if this pair will close the album when it receives its general release, but the review copy appends radio edits of ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘Watch It Die’, which are probably the two strongest tracks.
So less Blues here than was once the case with Ms Fish, but still plenty to enjoy from an artist, whose musical horizons and fan base seem to be broadening neatly in step with each other. She’ll tour this album in the UK in February and March 2020.
Bulletproof (Tangle Eye Mix); Kill Or Be Kind; Love Letters; Watch It Die; Try Not To Fall In Love With You; Fair-Weather; Love Your Lies; Dream Girl; She Don’t Live Around Here; Dirty; You Got It Bad; Bulletproof (Radio Edit); Watch It Die (Radio Edit).
I suspect that many readers of this review will, like me, have been monitoring Laurence’s progress since the release of his early albums. His regular touring allowed us to marvel at his guitar playing, even it felt a bit incongruous to hear songs like ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’ sung by a young man who looked like he hadn’t started shaving yet!
The relevance of that comment is that the Blues/Rock guitar solos would always carry the gigs, even when the vocals were occasionally on the light side; over the past couple of years Laurence has made a conscious decision to move away from the Blues, so I was interested to review this album to assess his progress.
His regular band now features Bennett Holland (once of King King) on keyboards, Greg Smith on bass and Phil Wilson (brother of guitarist Ash) on drums and together they perform Laurence’s own compositions, save for one Lennon & McCartney cover.
The message in the opening ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’ and ‘Wipe Those Tears Dry’ is, as the titles suggest, positive, but neither song really takes off. The following ‘I’m Waiting’, which has been released as a single, is far more energetic and might have made a better lead-off track. ‘I’m Waiting’ also features a stronger vocal and, in Laurence’s own words “There’s only one way to end this song and that’s with a long ripping guitar solo”; the only problem is that it actually ends with a fade out…
‘Stay’ was apparently inspired by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, although their influences are hard to discern. Things brighten up with a pair of Blues in ‘Mistreated’ (electric) and ‘Long Long Lonely Ride’ (acoustic), both of which feature some fine guitar work. Sandwiched between these Blues, ‘Quite Like You’ introduces Di Reed, a backing vocalist for Rod Stewart, and seeks a Clapton vibe without quite finding it.
‘Beautiful Place’ was written for Laurence’s mum, who has suffered with depression; although it and the following ‘Low Down’ are both rather light, there is some nice guitar to cheer any mother up. The attempt to combine Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Cross Fire’ over Lennon & McCartney’s ‘Day Tripper’ doesn’t quite come off; it’s a nice enough Beatles cover, but I didn’t hear much SRV in the mix.
‘Heart Is On Fire’ is, by Laurence’s own admission, the “poppiest song on the album”, while closer ‘The Love’ has “the simplest lyrics I’ve ever written”; sadly his sweet guitar tone isn’t enough to prevent these songs from feeling rather lightweight and repetitive.
I’ve bought and enjoyed all Laurence’s previous albums, so it gives me no pleasure to sound negative about this one, but the truth is that there’s not enough guitar to make up for the lightness of the vocals or some of the lyrics. He’s not the only artist seeking to find a broader crossover appeal, but for now his strengths still seem to lie in the Blues from which he’s trying to distance himself. Perhaps like Oli Brown, who moved towards Heavy Rock, he won’t forsake the old stuff altogether and will still play some Blues gigs; I, for one, hope so.
Everything’s Gonna Be Alright; Wipe Those Tears Dry; I’m Waiting; Stay; Mistreated; Quite Like You; Long Long Lonely Ride; Beautiful Place; Low Down; Day Tripper; Heart Is On Fire; The Love.
For men of a certain age the name Suzi Quatro brings back a fond memory of the leather clad singer playing her seemingly massive bass in what can only be delicately described as a provocative fashion. Of course, apart from fuelling the imagination of teenage boys, the Detroit born musician, more importantly, inspired many aspiring female artists to form bands. She’s really never gone away so her latest solo album ‘No Control’ isn’t a case of an old Rocker being dug out of their retirement but simply another chapter in a long running series. This might suggest something potentially stale and stodgy but listening to this album was a really pleasant surprise; it sounds fresh and vibrant, combining hard Rocking songs with catchy melodies (a lot of young contemporary Hard Rock bands could take note of that seemingly elusive element).
Suzi Q’s singing is in great shape, just like the lady herself, easily handling the opening fast paced straight ahead Rocking romps of ‘No Soul/No Control’ and ‘Going Home’ as well as the subsequent change of tack on a number of the following numbers. ‘Strings’ is a bouncy number led by synth horns, featuring a number of key changes, not to mention some real horns. ‘Love isn’t Fair’ has a carnival atmosphere with a Caribbean feel and another jaunty horn arrangement. ‘Macho Man’ has that chugging groove reminiscent of those 70’s hits and features the first guitar solo on the album, a great little Rocker. The collection is full of surprises; ‘Easy Picking’ features some Bluesy harmonica and sounds a bit like it could have been recorded by a 70’s group like Blue Mink (albeit with some souped up backing), another catchy melody with very nice keyboard work.
‘Bass Line’ takes it down slightly with a melody that pays homage (ahem) to Shocking Blue’s ‘Venus’ and unsurprisingly features some funky bass lines. There are one or two familiar melodies and arrangements. ‘I Can Teach You to Fly’ for instance definitely brings the Turtles’ ‘Happy Together’ to mind. The collection of eleven songs were all co-written by the singer and her son Richard Tuckey, who also handles guitar duties, and are all very listenable. The album features excellent playing and arrangements and, while it probably won’t register far beyond the singer’s hard-core fans, this is a set of songs that are powerfully melodic, as well as a lot of fun, and which deserve reaching a wider audience.
Sam Millar, best known as the guitarist from Wigan Hard Rockers Bigfoot, steps away from the band with a Soft Rock belter of an EP, ‘Holy Sass’, released at the end of last month! Without just continuing where Bigfoot left off, he’s adding diversity to his self-penned material even including some subtle electronica on the final track ‘Strangers’.
Now, some may remember press quotes a few years back that Steel Panther had been asked if they would write a serious album (obviously not), but if they did, ‘Eyes’, his opener would be the sort of track I’d expect from them in their style and it’s my fave number from this debut outing. ’Cyber Girl’ drops by next, more dreamy in its out and out AOR take, while the Rock girls will hate this quote, but I’m still going to say it anyway: “One for the ladies!”
Track 3 ‘Let Me Yet’ has a more American 90’s Rock feel about it, followed by the acoustic ballad ‘Lost In Translation’, with its cool sound on the guitar reminiscent of the Guns & Roses/Poison ballads way back and well executed for fans of that style. A promising debut!
"Back at the Rising stage we see what are probably the find of the weekend." Having won the right to play that stage in a Planet Rock competition, that was our opening gambit when we reviewed Cannock-based Piston's set on the final day of Maidstone's Ramblin' Man Fair in July this year. As well as also having the pleasure of interviewing the five piece Rock n’ Roll engine afterwards, made up of four members from the Midlands greased with a vocal roar from the South, we were understandably salivating at the thought of their long-awaited eponymous debut CD that was due to be released nearly two months later, on a very lucky Friday 13th September!
Indeed, Ramblin' Man was the first time we had caught the guys live, although it wasn't for the want of trying. A drip feed of excellent singles in advance of the album, made up for our previous attempt to see them in March, supporting their new single 'One More Day' at the, now much missed, Big Red in London. Although by the time we'd arrived at the venue, there had been a power cut, and the gig had to be cancelled! On the proviso that there are enough coins in the electricity meter tonight, Piston complete their co-headline tour with Collateral – the Stand Up, Shout It Out! Tour - at Archway's The Lounge (formerly Club Kolis) in London. The band are then back on the road next month with Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones and Gorilla Riot for UK “Roadstars” - a live extravaganza that sees each band alternate as headliners, giving them an equal share of the limelight. And then, finally. they join Glenn Hughes Performs Classic Deep Purple Live tour in November on the Aberdeen, Inverness and Middlesbrough legs.
Therefore it's fair to say that vocalist Rob Angelico, guitarist Jack Edwards, fellow six stringer Luke Allatt, bass guitarist Stuart Egan and drummer Brad Newlands on drums, are all currently in demand! However, before the aforementioned recent singles, it has been almost six years since their last release, plus they previously recorded a whole album, scrapped it and then bravely re-sculpted their sound! Their pedigree is well document though, having already appeared with various well-respected acts in the industry such as The Temperance Movement and Sebastian Bach and have filled venues throughout the UK with their raw sound and energetic performances.
The 10-track debut album was recorded at Silk Mill Studios in Newcastle Under Lyme, produced by Dan Swift (Iggy Pop, Depeche Mode) and is self-released with distribution by Music Glue. The album explodes into life with the brief but catchy 'Dynamite', all about following your instincts, with Gretch endorsed Jack, already nailing his Cult influences to the mast on his Billy Duffy Signature. C'mon! Newlands drum intro on their second single from the album 'Rainmaker', heralds a cracking vocal from Angelico plus equally awesome guitar work from both the Fender wielding Allatt and Edwards' White Falcon, on this slice of Foo Fighters high octane style Rock 'n' Roll, that deservedly got a lot of Planet Rock airplay on its May release. Based on striving to feel free, it's also one of two bonus tracks on the album remixed by Grammy Award nominated Romesh Dodangoda (Motörhead, Bring Me The Horizon). 'Go Now' is all about life's journey and making decisions, but despite its serious side, it's another catchy, Funky track that emphasises the solid spine of the band, namely Egan and Newlands, whilst another thought provoking track, the slower 'Carry Us Home', all about relationships, is a brilliant emotional riff and vocal rollercoaster. Their first single 'One More Day' (also the other bonus track to be remixed by Romesh Dodangoda) - is another Rock 'n' Roll gem that demonstrates the tightness of the band. Understandably, it consequently received airplay on BBC Radio 2’s Rock Show with Johnnie Walker, Planet Rock and many more - it's subject matter being about learning to trust in the natural progression of life.
'Beyond Repair' poses the question "Is it too late to make things right?' - well to be truthful, there ain't nothing wrong with this storming riff ridden track all the way through from Newlands intro to Angelico's vocal. All about anger relationship management, the awesome Southern Rock vibe of 'Leave If You Dare' hits the spot, transporting us back to that beautiful Summer's Day set in Mote Park - the dark, broody, long haired good looking Angelico making us mere mortals self deprecate to excess, especially when he flaunts his considerable singing talents! Another searing, infectious but short anthem - 'Blow It Away', considers life's purpose, but this third single, (also remixed by Dodangoda), is intense, fresh and engaging and is complemented by a killer superhero themed animated music video. Check it out. One of the stand out's of the album, the Classic 70's Rock vibe of 'Let Us Rise' addresses the balance between selflessness and selfishness, whilst in contrast, the Psychedelic feel of 'Into The Night' ends the album on an unexpected but positive note - exploring the darkness to find our way back to the light. Based on this debut album, and treading that fine line between chaos and radio friendly rebellious Rock, Piston have most certainly seen the light. With fun and fire in equal measures, this is a fist pumping, chest beating 32:52 minutes of Rock joy, which, when put together and fired up produce a no-nonsense sound to be reckoned with! Is 2019 the year for Piston? Suffice to say - as per our Ramblin' Man Fair review concluded - "What a great band. Keep an eye on this lot."
Nine Below Zero are celebrating forty years since their formation with the release of a brand new studio album entitled 'Avalanche', their first since the 2016 covers album ‘13 Shades of Blue’, and first with all new original material since ‘Never Too Late’ released in 2009. Produced by the whole band, co-produced and engineered by Chris McNally, and mixed and mastered by Wayne Proctor. The striking cover painting of an avalanche of people sliding down a snow covered mountain is by Peter Tingey. This twelve track album clocks in at just over forty five minutes and brings together an eclectic mix of musical styles from Blues, Soul, Funk, Country, Southern Rock and a good smattering of the hard hitting Punk/Mod R&B that they made their name playing. The first thing that strikes one upon initial listen, is how good the album sounds! Everything is clear and crisp, up front and bold but with plenty of depth and room to breathe. Nine Below Zero have been honing their craft for forty years now and that shows to great effect on this album. Still fronted by founding member, the charismatic and formidable vocalist/guitarist Dennis Greaves, along with another original member, the exceptionally gifted and talented harmonica player, Mark Feltham. On this album they are joined by Greaves’s son Sonny on drums, Charlie Austen on lead and backing vocals, Ben Wills on bass, Tom Monks on keyboards, Dave Boraston on trumpet and Chris Rand on saxophone.
Nine Below Zero formed in South London in 1977 by guitarist and lead vocalist Dennis Greaves. For the first two years they were known as “Stan's Blues Band" before changing their name to “Nine Below Zero”, after the Sonny Boy Williamson song, in 1979. Signed to A&M Records they went on to release the seminal ‘Live At The Marquee’ album in 1980 to critical acclaim. A formidable live album, that captures the raw energy and electric atmosphere of the gig perfectly. They released their first studio album ‘Don't Point Your Finger’ in 1981, produced by the legendary Glyn Johns, it reached number 56 on the UK Albums Chart. During this time the band went on to support high profile bands such as The Kinks and The Who. They also made appearances on the Old Grey Whistle Test and the South Bank show. In 1982 they appeared on ‘The Young Ones’ comedy show performing the track ‘Eleven + Eleven’ before releasing the ‘Third Degree’ album, which reached number 38 on the UK Albums Chart.
In 1982 the band split, Dennis Greaves went on to form ‘The Truth’ with Mick Lister. The musical direction moved away from Blues Rock to a more Mod/New Wave sound. They had two top forty hit singles in 1983, appearing on Top Of The Pops several times. In 1990 Nine Below Zero got back together for a sell-out 10th Anniversary Concert at the Town & Country Club in Kentish Town, London. Along with Greaves and Feltham were bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Brendan O'Neill (both ex-Rory Gallagher's band). Feltham left again in 1992 only to return in 2001. Harmonica duties during 1992 – 1995 were handled by Alan Glen and then 1995 – 2001 by Billy Boy Miskimmin. In 1994 the band had the prestigious honour of being invited by Eric Clapton to support him over twelve nights at the Royal Albert Hall.
Nine Below Zero formed their own record company ZED Records in 1997, releasing the ‘Refrigerator’ album in 2000. In 2012 Brian Bethell, from the 1982 ‘Third Degree’ era, re-joined replacing Gerry McAvoy. Then in 2014, Mickey ‘Stix’ Burkey from the 1980 ‘Live At The Marquee’ era re-joined replacing Brendan O’Neil, thus completing the classic ‘Third Degree’ era line-up. The band went on to celebrate their 35th Anniversary with a UK tour with the classic ‘Third Degree’ line-up to rave reviews. In 2016 saw the first appearance of the Nine Below Zero ‘big band’ with the release of the ‘13 Shades Of Blue’ album. Brian Bethell left in 2016 to be replaced by Ben Willis, Mickey Burke left in 2018 to be replaced by Dennis Greaves’s son Sonny.
‘Avalanche’ opens with the jaunty South London Mod swagger of ‘Wanna Be A Wannabe’. A brilliant slice of gritty R&B, with humorous lyrics, about the façade of social media. Feltham skilfully peppers the track with his wonderful harmonica playing. No one plays harmonica like Mark Feltham, pure class! He is all over this track and it’s a joy to the ears. Normally Feltham would sing one or two songs per album, but not so on this one, and no writing credits either. All twelve tracks are co-writes with Greaves and various other members of the band. ‘Ter Wit Ter Woo’ is a Greaves co-write with Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, a version of this song actually appeared on the 2011 album ‘The Co-Operative’, a collaborative album with Tilbrook. This song has a sensational catchy chorus that sticks in the memory! Instantly appealing, with beautiful soulful lead vocals from Charlie Austen. A tasteful harmonica solo from Feltham gives the track extra texture. This track blends Country with Soul music, and has been in their live set for a couple of years now.
Third track in, ‘Race To The Bottom’ is well funky indeed! A magnificent wah wah guitar groove by Greaves anchors the track and sets it on its merry way to Funk heaven! A kind of funky Acid Jazz type song, a nice contrast to the previous two tracks. Greaves and Austen's voices blend well on this song. “We began at the top, it's a race to the bottom, its an avalanche you can't stop.” Continuing the funky theme comes the grooving piano driven and horn heavy ‘Hey Siri! (Go **** Yourself)’, a James Brown style instrumental piece, with some tasty Jazz Funk jamming. Each band member gets the opportunity to take a solo on this one. Track five, the excellent ‘Austerity Blues’, is real authentic down home Blues with lyrics that reflect some of the hardships and stresses we all face day in day out. “Zero hour contracts, minimum wage, things ain't looking good in this day and age, austerity blues.” This is the kind of music Nine Below Zero excel at and which Greaves was born to do, and he shines through out the track.
‘Roots And Wings’ is a slow Country, Soul, Blues, Americana styled track with tasteful horn accompaniment and delectable ‘oooo’ backing vocals. This track has some cool lyrics “don’t need no weather man to tell me its raining, there ain’t no flies on me!” Track seven is called ‘Zebulon’, which is a small town in North Carolina, USA. This song has an up-beat vibe with a good ol' singalong chorus and plenty of cowbell action! Track eight ‘One Of Sour, Two Of Sweet’ is a beautiful catchy Soul/New Wave song which wouldn’t be out of place on Greaves’s other Mod/New Wave band The Truth. A sweet blend of voices from Austen and Greaves, with some tasty backing vocals, adding to the overall warmth of the track. Feltham is conspicuous by his absence on this one.
‘Picture No Sound’ is a steady rocker with a cool Stones vibe, Feltham makes his presence felt on the intro, blasting away on the harmonica with total abandon! Some jazzy horn breaks and Rhodes piano create a Jazz tinged atmospheric vibe. “I got a picture, but I ain't got no sound. It is what it is, what it is and I like it!” 'Recycle Me' is another stellar Austen lead vocal, a brilliant slow Blues with honking horns dominating the overall sound. “Recycle me when I 'm gone, take my heart, my soul, skin and bone”, a song about donating ones organs after one dies! Feltham is, once again, absent on this one.
The penultimate track, ‘Breadhead’ is a fast paced rocker with Greaves taking charge on the vocals. A vibrant acoustic guitar intro leads into some tasty strutting electric guitar riffing which packs a good ol' punch! A song about the obsession with making loads of money! The last track on the album is ‘I Drink But I Don't Get Drunk’ which has an Americana, Cajun, Bossa Nova type vibe going on. A tantalizing piano intro gets this song under way with vibrant jabbing horns dominating the sound and an exuberant saxophone providing the main riff. Amusing lyrics about drinking! “I think when I should have thunk, I drink but I don't get drunk!” I would rate this album a good nine out of ten. Definitely one of their best. The band are currently on their Fortieth Anniversary Tour ‘Are We There Yet?’. So far seven songs from 'Avalanche' have appeared in the set, which is a good indicator of the quality of the new material.
Steven C. Gilbert
Working with The Supersonic Blues Machine has definitely influenced Kris Barras’ writing style; his songs already contained strong hooks, particularly displayed on previous album ‘The Divine & The Dirty’, but this new set of exuberantly played numbers have a collective anthemic quality with big powerful choruses boosted on record by the presence of female backing vocalists. KB’s trademark riffing is still present but this time there are more rhythmic power chords propelling the numbers, topped off naturally by his increasingly fluid soloing, which flows throughout the 13 new numbers.
The album kicks off with ‘What You Get’, introduced by a bass drum alone for four beats before typically fierce slide guitar bursts out of the speakers and, like a lot of the songs here, is almost straight into a powerful chorus. Following number ‘Broken Teeth’ was no doubt inspired by the guitarist’s background as a budding cage fighter (with its chorus of “I’ve never been afraid of cracked knuckles and broken teeth” propelled by furious drumming and a repeated riff and featuring some searing slide work. Like the guitarist’s stage presence, this is full of muscular energy. Unsurprisingly ‘Vegas Son’ has another busy riff at its core and a big descriptive chorus, “Finding my way with a roll of the dice, I’ll take my chance on love, because for all I know tomorrow will never come, so I’ll live like a Vegas son”. ‘Ignite (Light it Up)’ is another powerhouse of a number that bangs along like a juggernaut out of control and is going to be a live favourite.
The first change of pace and a chance to take a break from the relentless riffing comes with ‘Rain’ a big ballad. Very nice! ‘Let the River Run Through You’ is another change of tempo, featuring a more Bluesy groove and a catchy chorus. To be honest, there aren’t any duff tracks on this really strong collection, each song leaps out and makes its presence felt. On the last number ‘Pride is Forever’ the band stretch out and leave a bit more space than the full-on tilt of most other tracks. Excellent stuff. The guitar playing is superb throughout of course; like the guitarist sings on opening track “what you see is what you get”. In a relatively short space of time Kris Barras has created a brand of music that is instantly recognisable and consistently good. What next for the tattooed maestro I wonder?
Having seen Vambo live a number of times, my expectations for their debut eponymous album were soon shattered on first listening. The four piece are a lively bundle of rocking excitement on stage so I was expecting a rough and ready Rock album, full of vim and vigour. In contrast the new offering is a remarkably sophisticated collection of work with unexpected diversity and a huge maturity for a young band. And importantly still has the excitement of a freshman offering. The production is excellent, courtesy of Ray Stiles (Mud/The Hollies), which is evident as the album wends its way through assorted influences.
First track 'Now You See Me' is fairly understated for an opening number but highlights a well written Rock track with some catchy riffs and nice harmonies. It bumps along nicely and gets the toes tapping. 'Why Why Why' has been getting some airplay on Planet Rock. Showcasing Jack Stiles extensive range of vocals, that Michael Starr would seek to emulate, and a rhythm akin to the Beatles 'Day Tripper', it's a relatively slow groove but quite powerful. 'Cry Woman' is a more 80's Pop Rock track that reeks of shoulder pads and silver suits. You can imagine Stiles pouting into a vaselined camera lens and the girls swooning. It feels very heavily produced, as did much 70's Soft Rock, but Pete Lance's guitar licks lift it up. Another track where the harmonies are prominent. 'We're Not The Same' takes a different turn. It's a slow chugging track which reminds me of Tony Iommi's first solo album. It's almost haunting and probably the first track that really embedded itself in my brain. The structure is similar to early Queen with interesting fills and vocal snippets. I would love to see them perform this one live.
'Dancing With The Devil' adds a little piano for a romantic little number. Every album should have a ballad and this one is another that could have come from an 80's AOR band. 'World Of Misery' brings us back to the now with a more upbeat Rock track. I would have liked the underlying riff to be a bit more ballsy, it could have put this in the 'Whole Lotta Love' category, but it's still a good track. 'Down Little Mama' dirties up a little further whilst 'Running In Circles' is back to a Synth Rock ballad. It's a little formulaic but has a nice bridge element from Lance that will have bedroom guitarists looking to emulate.
'Camouflage' is another guitar Heavy Rock with elements of Whitesnake and Deep Purple, bands that have clearly influenced them, which is no bad thing. 'Vambo Roolz' starts with deep Southern slide for a lovely slow groove. This will presumably be the live sing along ego booster. 'Vambo Roolz' could either be a proclomation of regency or a list of instructions. You decide. The slide is exquisite throughout. Closer 'Fast Car' is what every Rock album needs - a rocking track about cars, women and high falsetto screams. A nod to Purple's 'Highway Star', it's classic late 70's Rock, with screaming guitars vocals and probably accompanying screaming groupies. A big nod must go to James Scott on bass and Steve Price on drums. The four piece are tight, thanks mainly to James and Steve. Both carry the beat throughout but shine with their own fills and thrills, although neither are overbearing or unnecessarily flashy.
As first albums go, this one is a winner. It's well produced, well played and well received. The collection of tracks is diversely interesting whilst maintaining the 70's Rock theme throughout. I expected a rough around the edges Garage Rock album. I got a modern take on a Classic Rock album. My three listen rule was no chore here and the album will be getting many more hits on my playlist. Good job well done Vambo.
Notable lyrics from 'World Of Misery':
"Whoever said her love was kind must be drunk
It feels more like an open cut, an infection
01: 'Now You See Me'
02: 'Why Why Why'
03: 'Cry Woman'
04: 'We're Not The Same'
05: 'Dancing With The Devil'
06: 'World Of Misery'
07: 'Down Little Mama'
08: 'Running In Circles'
10: 'Vambo Roolz'
11: 'Fast Car'
The website for the Mojo Preachers describes their music as spanning “Fusion Blues, Psychedelic Swamp, Funk, Rock and more” adding that they are “hard to pigeonhole”. Well, it’s hard to resist a challenge! However, if you want to label their music (you know it makes life easier!) it has to be said that this is a very listenable album, consistently enjoyable across all its smoothly grooving 13 tracks.
One of the distinctive elements that sets the group apart are the really nice vocals from Sophie Lindsay (also responsible for the attractive artwork) which are strong and authoritative yet also soothingly melodic; in fact her singing is reminiscent of Christine McVie (it is almost impossible to listen to the opening vocals on second track, ‘Tattooed Heart’, without expecting to hear a ‘Mac song to follow) with a bit of an added Jazz feel (not to suggest that she sings flat and kills the melody like most Jazz vocalists). Her voice is so mellifluous that she manages to make many vocal lines attractive when the backing is really driving the song (rather than just supporting the vocal).
The album is full of interesting instrumentation, particularly from the keyboards of Carlton Van Selman (great name), which are really excellent throughout, whether it’s piano, organ sounds or some funky synth playing, as featured particularly on ‘Easy (return)’ where he lets rip with a fruity solo (with a hint of Prog noodling thrown in at the death) as if we’re back somewhere in the 80’s and dancing under a glitterball in some dodgy nightclub. On ‘Take Me Down’ the band play as if they have taken up residence in an up market late night Miami bar, the song having a lovely Latin (they missed that off their self-description) feel and features a nice Jazz tinged (they missed that too) guitar solo and some sweet tinkling piano down the top end of the ivories.
Guitarist Andy Walker plays some very good, understated guitar throughout, with lots of subtle rhythm parts and tasteful solo passages, an example of which is opening and title track ‘Man Made Monster’ which features an interesting solo, that definitely fuses a number of styles (as do most of his solos); ‘Call Me Crazy’ similarly features some very nice harmony guitar work. The lyrics are definitely are cut above the average (which is not to damn with faint praise), which add to what is a very well recorded and sophisticated sounding collection. The author of the band’s self-description must have been having a Psychedelic experience when they wrote the line quoted above. This is simply good music – check it out.