Supersonic Blues Machine

2019

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!

Simon Green

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