Reviews roundup – Robert Jon & The Wreck ~ Final Conflict ~ Grim ~ OnlySound
ROBERT JON & THE WRECK
Last Light On The Highway
Robert Jon Music
They may be from California but they’re looking in a south easterly direction for their southern and country rock influences.
And they’ve taken those seventies vibes, melodies and rhythms and turned them into something very enjoyable indeed.
First thing is that Robert Jon has a cracking voice. Even if the songs were a bit meh you’d still give him a listen. But they’re not and in conjunction with the red hot antics of The Wreck there is a lot to enjoy here.
The band have been on the go since 2011 and have a few releases under this belt but this is the one that should help them up the ladder. Well it would if they were able to and out and play but we’re not currently living in that world. Some opening slots for Blackberry Smoke and Whiskey Myers playing these tunes would have seem some action at the merch stand.
They’ve got a very soulful edge and have done the smart thing by bringing in Mahalia Barnes, Jade MacRae and Juanita Tippins on backing vocals. They’ve all done this with Joe Bonamassa and it really adds some depth to the material. The songs themselves seem to have an aura of world weariness around the edges. Not in a depressing way, just in a I’ve seen some things kind of way. Take a listen to ‘Tired of Drinking Alone’ to find out what I’m talking about. There is also some delightful twin guitar work on the songs with the leads intertwining. The ballad ‘Gold’ is another gem which will being a tear to your beer.
Rootsy, soulful but with rock and roll edges. A splendid release.
The Rise Of The Artisan
I have the vaguest of vague recollection of Final Conflict. I’m lumping them in with the likes of Haze and Quasar but that might be the residual drugs from the Spiders Web.
And, thanks to DuckGoGo, I was wrong. It was the medicine man messing because Final Conflict are actually a wee bit further down the prog timeline, dating back to 1985.
Back then they were led by vocalist and guitarist Brian Donkin and um, guitarist and vocalist Andy Lawton and nothing has changed on that front several hunnerd years down the line. They’ve punted out nine studio albums over the decades with the first part of this trilogy coming out in 2012. Seven years is a long time to wait to find out what happened after ”Return of the artisan’ but now the wait is over with the arrival of ‘The Rise of the Artisan’. And it’s really good. I mean, really really good.
Fans of Gilmour led Pink Floyd and mid period Marillion would find themselves at home here as the music whilst always intricate, always hangs on to a melody. Something that many prog bands forget about. The twin vocal approach works really well as part of the storytelling format. Obviously being a headbanger of many years standing I do like it when a guitar solo rips out and there are a few good ones on here enlivening already good songs like “Four Domains”. But when they go a bit seventies as they do on the closing “Breaking The Cycle” I get a wee bit mushy inside.
Not many prog artists or albums manage to touch me emotionally. I mean, I can admire the craftsmanship without being involved but this one managed it. If you’re looking for something to tide you over to the next Ayreon release I’d certainly recommend giving this a listen. One of the best genre albums I’ve heard this year.
To the Canadian colonies to meet up with Grim, named for the brothers Grimberg who formed the band.
They’ve been knocking about for a while, 8 years or so, which means they’ve had plenty of time to refine their sound.
I say refine but that really seems to defeat the purpose of Grim who seem more about the groove than anything else. For some reason, even though they sound nothing like them, I’m reminded of Corrosion of Conformity. It’s got that dirty underbelly that works really well.
There are a few hints of southern rock which seems to managed to travel 3000 miles north to make its mark. The band certainly power through the material with swagger and verve, and it’s a sound worth hearing. Imagine a heavy metal Little Caesar and you wouldn’t be a million miles off the mark.
The production is really good and on the best tunes such as “This Ones About Fighting Cowboys” (hah!) and “Dirt” you’ll find yourself rooting for them big time.
The Only Sound
To South St Louis for some classic hard rock.
And it’s to the late seventies that OnlySound seem to be looking for their influences. This is the second album from the band following on from “Derby Car” in 2016 and sees the five piece band of Jewell Yocum – vocals, Stevie Gruener – guitars, Dallas Woodson – guitars, Eric Littles – bass and Elaine Gruener throwing in a few funk and pop licks along the way.
They’re a solid band, comprising experienced musicians so they certainly know their way around their instruments and on the best songs, they make a fair fist of things.
The best would include “XX Bottom” (yes, really), the indie rock of “Beelzebub” and the odd time signatures of the title track. There are a couple of tracks where they invoke the early eighties of The Bolshoi and Spear of Destiny which allows them to show a different side to themselves. The production is a bit basic but if they were playing in a bar near me, I’d certainly go along for a few beers and cheers.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton