Hogjaw ponders the Southern Way Down Yonder

Hailing from Arizona, Hogjaw have just released their sixth studio album called Way Down Yonder. Their debut was released back in 2008, but they have concentrated on their homeland and have only played in the UK once: at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in 2016. The following year Europe was their target and they completed a 40-date tour in late 2017, which probably accounts for them being new to me. The UK gets its chance in October with a 12-venue tour scheduled.

Describing themselves as “hard-hitting southern fried electric rock” is a guide to their influences and intentions. Whilst it is hard to disagree with that, my sonic picture is a little more diverse…imagine the DNA of Free, pre-’87 Whitesnake, mixed with some from early Rainbow and Foghat smoked in an epidermis of Blackfoot and The Allman Brothers…in other words, proper blues-rock with a strong taste of the South.

Back Home Today opens the 11-track offering and it deals out a strong Freestyle background riff, but with the occasional southern twang. The vocals are pretty southern too, but without that irritating, overly affected ‘singing accent’ so beloved of some bands. The wonderfully named vocalist, Jonboat, has a good range and doesn’t push it. A subtle guitar solo is straight out of the Allmans repertoire and actually sings. To Hell With The Rest does have Skynyrd overtones, but it also has an individuality, with a complex backing riff, and the solo is an example of how to use the whole fretboard with the only fault being its brevity. Brown Water is next up and, almost inevitably, is about whisk(e)y. This is an energetic, faster paced rock-based song, with a riff that recalls Lady double Dealer (off Stormbringer), but then the harmony in the solo and the closing riff is more Lizzy. North Carolina Way is firmly in Lynyrd Skynyrd territory, with Jones even sounding a bit like Van Zandt. With a slow start of excellent picked guitar supporting the vocals, it then bursts into a raucous chorus and then a couple of superbly realised solos. Title track, Way Down Yonder has a riff which, if you can comprehend this, is a southern fried gumbo of Rainbow’s 16th Century Greensleeves. This should mean it is wrong but, even with the spoken word section sounding like Johnny Cash, and then an a capella hand-clap bit, somehow (damn it!) this is still a great song. Dark Horse is a much slower number with a solid drum pattern heralding a simplistic, yet effective riff. This one reminds me of Nazareth on the Hair of the Dog album, with its dark and moody feel to the lyrics and the overall structure. Another classy solo with harmonies rounds this off rather well. Redemption starts off at a simmer and builds cleverly through soft verse/heavy chorus and brings Beyond the Realms of Death to mind in the way the song is built. Got A Pencil takes us into a Southern sound but when this hits the heavy, central section it takes a step beyond all of those standard standards. Never Surrender has a true blues-rock intro and is a delight from start to finish, with its varied emphases and another skilled solo. Beast Of Burden (Roll On) will make you sit up and think, really?!. The riff is almost note for note the epic Stargazer. Plagiarism? Tribute? I’ll leave that up to you, personally, once you get to the solos with slide and full fret workouts, I can nearly forgive them…anyway, I love Rainbow too, and it is actually great fun! Final track Talk About Fishin’ is nearly as surprising as Beast… as, after the heaviness, suddenly we are hit with a bluegrass song, complete with banjo, mouth-harp and a back-porch chorus. Strange companion to what has gone before but is quite an enjoyable, clever and well-executed bit of country blues.

After listening to this a few times, if you allow your mind to visualize the impossible… imagine Blackmore did not don the tights and pixie boots but instead went all Southern on us, then you might, just, might get close to Hogjaw. I haven’t yet researched their previous albums, but this one is a whole heap of fun Y’all! Give it a try; there is so much to enjoy even with the spot the riff games.

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Back Home Today
  2. To Hell With The Rest
  3. Brown Water
  4. North Carolina Way
  5. Way Down Yonder
  6. Dark Horse
  7. Redemption
  8. Got A Pencil
  9. Never Surrender
  10. Beast Of Burden (Roll On)
  11. Talk About Fishin’

Musicians:
Jonboat Jones (vocals/guitar)
Jimmy Rose (lead guitar)
Elvis DD (bass)
Kwall (drums)

Produced by the band and Byron Filson

Hogjaw ponders the Southern Way Down Yonder

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar