Ahoy music lovers! This is a real treat for the ears, so get ready to turn down your hearing aids and turn up the volume! The amiable guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick first tried his hand at a solo album back in 2006 and, clearly daunted by the prospect of the “difficult second album”, delayed the follow up as long as possible to put off falling foul to this cliché syndrome. Actually, that’s not true, he’s just one of those talented people that other musicians like to hang out and work with. After working with fashionable indie poster girl Thea Gilmore back in the day the guitarist has worked with a host of different people, most notably holding down the lead guitar role for venerable British rockers FM.
Still, it is a ridiculously long time between albums. The good news is that it’s a scorcher. This is Classic, Melodic Rock music built on quality song writing (sounds simple but isn’t) and features really nice guitar work, which is I suppose what you might expect, but nevertheless it’s worth noting that the playing is excellent throughout. It’s equally worth commenting that JK is no slouch on the vocal front either. Unlike a number of guitar slingers, who you wish could be muzzled in the public interest, this guy is convincing as a front man, singing powerfully (a suggestion of Gary Moore maybe) with a hint of a rough edge (without needing to do that pretending to have swallowed a cocktail of barbed wire and razor blades that some singers adopt and which is about as convincing as a Trump claim of electoral fraud).
Opening and title track, ‘Ballad of a Prodigal Son’, is a punchy four heavy beats to the bar, riff propelled number with a strong multi-harmony chorus and an explosive flowing solo. A really catchy rocker. The momentum is maintained by ‘No Such Thing as a Sure Thing’, which has an equally groovy riff and another powerful refrain underpinned by prominent, rising harmonised backing vocals. The guitar solo on this sounds like the guitarist has been waiting, like a coiled spring, to unleash the burst of rootsy notes. ‘Ain’t Going Down Alone’ sounds like a Free album track and again features some excellent backing vocals, which are exceptionally good throughout the whole album and contribute strongly in emphasising the Melodic nature of the collection.
The multi-layered guitars include some searing slide work, which adorn a number of tracks, including the following track, ‘Blue Heron Boulevard’, a tremendous instrumental that sounds like Sonny Landreth meets the Allman Brothers. Sonically sensationally pleasing on the lugholes! There are no weak links here; ‘Gravy Train’ rattles along, driven by a tight riff that is like a speeded up mid-period Dr Feelgood. ‘Brave New World’ is a slower number that has drawn out picked chords, heavy on the chorus pedal, punctuated by sharp Blues fill, before revving up for the pushed attack of the chorus and an absolutely blistering solo. This is the sort of thing you might expect to find on a Joe Bonamassa album. ‘Always On The Road’ is a jaunty rocker, piano and horns driving this in a classic combination, Stax meets North Country Blues!
This is far superior to most other offerings you’re likely to encounter this year, a really superb collection. Don’t leave it 14 years before the next one Jim!