Reviews roundup – Joe Bonamassa vs, Rich Robinson vs. Black Aces vs. Grandhour vs. Bajo 4 Zero
Blues Of Desperation
I’m beginning to wonder whether the rumours about Joe Bonamassa bathing in the blood of virgins has some truth to it. After all, he never seems to sleep, is always on tour, yet still finds time to record solo, band and collaborative albums. I’d dismissed the notion after “Different Shades of Blue”, because it’s not an album that I’ve had the urge to return to very often.
But this, his twelfth solo album, is a different beast, and has taken me back to the days of “Sloe Gin” and “The Ballad of John Henry”. Mainly because the songs seem so much better. It’s odd, considering he uses the same team on his records, but something has pushed this one on. Naturally, there is the full complement of fancy picking, but on songs like ‘This Train’, ‘Valley Runs Low’ and ‘Mountain Climbing’ he seems to have found his writing mojo.
It’s certainly his bluesiest album in a while, one that will please long term fans. The band, comprising drummers Anton Fig and Greg Morrow, bassist Michael Rhodes, keyboardist Reese Wynans, horn players Lee Thornburg, Paulie Cerra and Mark Douthit, and background singers Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae and Juanita Tippins all rise to the challenge, and Bonamassa himself seems to have hit a vocal high.
It’s a real treat, and is also out on vinyl, and as as a fancy dan deluxe edition with a 64 page hardcover digibook, which will make guitar fetishists very moist indeed. March UK tour dates are here.
This was the debut album from Black Crowes guitarist Rich Robinson. It came out back in 2004 and demostrated what a good songwriter and guitarist he is. It also showed that he can’t sing, and that he really ought to stop falling out with Chris.
Fast forward 13 years, and with a new solo album lined up, his new label is reissuing his old stuff. Seems, though, that the master tapes for the album were significantly damaged during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, which meant that all of his original vocal tracks had been erased. Odd that. I mean the hurricane just happened to pick on the albums weak point.
So, Robinson was “forced” to return to the studio and re-record his vocals in order to reissue the album. Ahem. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s spent over a decade working on improving his vocals. Because he has, and the album is better for it. It’s also been expanded with three previously unreleased tracks, none of which really add to the album. However, that aside, this really does sound like a lost Crowes album, with some excellent work from said bands keyboardist Eddie Harsch and BR549’s Donnie Herron on fiddle and pedal steel.
Better than it was first time around.
Shot In The Dark
Off to the mythical continent of Australia now, for some hard rock’n’roll from a band who sound a bit like the new Airbourne. Who sounded a bit like the new AC/DC. As do the Black Aces. However, I would like to point out that that is a very good thing. And, no, you can’t have my Rhino Bucket records.
It’s a bit harder and a bit faster than their predecessors, but they’re young and hungry, so that’s only to be expected. Vocalist Tyler Kinder has a good set of pipes on him, and can holelr and scream with the best of them, while the band bas their way through an invigorating set of tunes, with the likes of ‘Shot In The Dark’, ‘Sick As A Dog’ and ‘Let It Roll’ as good as it gets in the genre.
Kinder also handles lead guitar, but the rest of the band – Rhys Collier on rhythm guitar, Alex McMillan on bass, and Pete McMillan on drums are locked in as tight as you want. This is an absolute ripper.
Bombs & Bullets
And we’re staying in the alien infested landscapes for our next band, with fellow Australians Grandhour. They’ve been on the go for a while, and it’s a family affair with vocalist/guitarist and chief songwriter Nicole Hawkins, alongside husband Jason and brother-in-law Mark at the core of the band.
They’re looking back to the days of eighties melodic rock for this offering, and certainly know their way around a tune, some of which would have happily sat on mainstream radio back in the day. Of course, those days have gone, but that’s not reason not to sit back and enjoy.
It also helps that it has a really good production and mix, something that is essential for this style of rock, and with songs like ‘Beneath The Surface’, ‘Grey Skies’ and ‘Domino’ along for the ride, it makes a fine listen.
BAJO 4 ZERO
Lastly for today, it’s some melodic metal from Valencia. Bajo 4 Zero (nope, me neither), first got together back in 2013, and this is the debut album from guitarist Gonzalo Lorente, drummer Iñaki Genís, bass player Manuel Mocholí and vocalilst Rebeca Montón.
And they make a decent fist of it. It’s throwback metal, looking to the eighties for its inspiration, when Judas Priest were the kings of metal, and young whippersnappers like Accept were hot on their heels
Ms Montón has a decent set of lungs on her, and the other musicians are no slouches at bashing out a riff and a beat. The production could be more upfront, but for an indie release, it’s fair enough. Not every song is out of the top drawer, though, and they maybe should have went the EP route first. However, give ‘Tell Me More’ or ‘Give Me The Answer’ a spin, and you may find yourself drawn in.