If, like me, you wish you had learnt to play guitar at an early age, one listen to Aaron Keylock and you realise that unless you started at around twelve months, you've probably left it too late. It's hard to believe that this incredible album is from an artist, who while obviously devoted to his craft, shows maturity well beyond his eighteen years. While his influences are easy to hear, he certainly has his own sound, perfectly captured by producer Fabrizio Grossi (famed for his work with Slash and Zakk Wylde to name but two). Never is this more evident than on opening track 'All The Right Moves', starting with a great riff, it perfectly sets the tone for what's to come. An uptempo number, with a great loose Black Crowes Bluesy feel, and a terrific, if short mid song solo, which if extended in a live setting, could turn into something truly special.
As if to make a point as to how talented Mr. Keylock actually is, the second number 'Down' sounds like three songs rolled into one. Catchy verses, lead into a downbeat chorus, followed by some amazing slide guitar work, such ambition could get messy, but it works perfectly. 'Medicine Man' is apparently a big crowd favourite and it's not hard to hear why. This time, a particularly strong vocal is once again accompanied by a great guitar sound and a fist punching chorus, play it loud and you've got a song to lose your voice to. Great stuff. Next up is 'Falling Again'. Southern, Country style Rock - more at home in Nashville, Tennessee, with the likes of The Cadillac Three - who knew that a young guy from Oxfordshire could make sounds like this. Another great song. Onwards to 'Just One Question' which sounds like a song heavily influenced by a couple of guitar greats. Opening with a Joe Bonamassa feel and cutting in with some late, great Gary Moore style, its layers and precision show that maybe the "One Question" to be asked, should be how good will this guy be with a few more years under his belt? The (almost) title track 'Against The Grain' follows. A guaranteed foot stomper which would make a perfect single (if such things are still important). It's a perfect upbeat mix of Blues,Rock and Country complete with handclaps - a standout track which has the potential to be on Aaron's set list for many years to come.
Talking of future fan favourites and set list constants, the same can be said for 'That's Not Me'. With more great solos and a lazy laid back chorus which gets into your head after the first listen, if it were a book, it would be impossible to put it down. Track eight 'Try' will in all probability leave the listener in a bit of a dilemma. Trouble is when a song has this much going on, it's hard to know which air guitar should be busted out first. Do you go with the gentle opening and try and look sophisticated or rock out like a lunatic to the songs thunderous climax .Whichever you prefer, this is a wonderful noise, which once again demands to be played loud. With \Spin The Bottle' you can almost hear our hero channelling his inner Rolling Stones. Reminiscent of the early seventies 'Exile/ Tumbling Dice' era of the boys, it's a track with more of a band feel to it, catchy chorus, great vocals and of course exceptional guitar work .
After all this great stuff, I found 'Suns Gonna Shine' a little disappointing, although no way a filler track, after the promising opening, things tend to lose a bit of focus as everything gets thrown into the mix, this would be my personal skip over song. However, we are back on top form for the album closer 'No Matter What The Cost'. A great song with another chorus that gets lodged in your brain, a laid back Bluesy Rock tune which would be perfect for lazy summer days, beer in hand and all troubles forgotten. One of the things most noticeable upon repeated plays of this debut album is how restrained Aaron Keylock is with regards to his playing, with his youth and talent it would be easy to get carried away and make each song a lengthy overindulgent shred fest, however he definitely understands the concept of less is more as no song outlasts its welcome, making for a perfectly paced CD. It's the sound of a guy for whose future is so bright it's no wonder he wears shades on the cover. Next week I will have the pleasure of hearing at least some of these songs live at Planet Rocks WintersEnd festival. If the live show is as good as the CD, I think a great evening is in store. Highly recommended.