Richard Townend and the Mighty Bosscats Trump them all with God Bless America

Richard Townend, for the uninitiated, was a professional musician graduating from Leeds College of Music in 1986 where he studied guitar and composition. After graduating, he toured throughout the UK with the likes of Ronnie Corbett, Charlie Drake, Les Denis, Dana, The Platters and Tony Christie. He became, perhaps unsurprisingly disillusioned with the professional music scene until, a few years later, he was in the audience of a blues jam session in Essex. That inspired him to get back into playing so he formed a band called the Boss Cats, and gigged relentlessly with a blues/rock set. I get the impression that this was too limiting for the kind of musical expression Richard needed to display and so the Mighty Boss Cats came into existence and he began to write his own unique blend of music reflecting his diverse influences. He was, and remains, extremely prolific and has, by reckoning, released eleven albums including this most recent release, God Bless America.

It may seem strange for a British artist to write songs so aware of the attitudes and atmosphere in the run-up to the Trump victory but, as Richard says, “During a US road trip taking in Dallas, Graceland, Stax, and Sun Records and the site of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s, assassination, the road trip provided a unique view of modern American cultural history. It was fresh in my mind on Election Night, and as the TV announced Trump had won, three supporters at the bar whooped with gusto. Three JD’s were ordered. Looking at the TV, and holding his shot high, one toasted, “God Bless America”…and so the first new song for the album was written”. This puts the whole album into perspective, for it is steeped in the Americana tones of blues, country with hints of bluegrass and gospel. Inevitably comparisons spring to mind… and for me, I get a hit of JJ Cale, Mark Knopfler and Chris Rea.

Townend and the band of consummate musicians known as the Mighty Bosscats have put together a superb set of finely honed songs, which should appeal to many outside of the aforementioned genres. Be aware, however, if you are expecting guitar hero, rocking blues, then you will not find them here. What you will find are 14 clever songs, crafted and produced faultlessly with the added benefit of thought-provoking, clever lyrics. The band explores a sound landscape enriched by acoustic, electric, dobro and pedal steel guitars always backed by perfectly aligned bass, keys and drums.

The title track comes first. It has a harmony-heavy hook, but with subtle rhythms, which pull you into the depth of the song and the story told above. All Falling Down starts in acoustic mode before moving into light, melodic, rock territory.

The JJ Cale style Fault Line has a great picked intro and a clever shift in the tone halfway through. Don’t Run Away has an acoustic background to a lovely picked electric guitar and a thoughtful solo. Mr Bird is the best for me for its genre-defying construction: opening with a blue-tinged dobro slide before the guitar and voice harmonies stretch it further than imagined. Who You Gonna Call has, mercifully, nothing in common with the soundtrack the title inevitably brings to mind. Instead, it is a ‘train-track’ shuffle with countrified harmonies to match and then Richard puts in a trademark subtle solo of such class. She’s Gone has a Chris Rea feel in its phrasing, and is none the worse for that. Walking in the Sun and the following track Pride have the pedal steel backing that also evokes a Rea feel but benefit from the vocal harmonies that sprinkle this release. Plenty of Time has a true rock feel to it in a ballad way of thinking, except it stays in a clever understated tone and pace that suddenly bursts into a drum laced electric solo before sliding back to its origins. Sweet Dreams has a happy slide intro than bounces along with the drums. When the vocal lines come in it could be a 1930s love song but with much-improved backing and a slide, solo to boot. Ticket of Life brings a country swing and swagger to a story of perseverance and hardship of an unnamed lady. Down Town Parking Lot, manages, in the hands of the Mighty Bosscats, to sound more Americana than any US band could produce. Here we get another example of clever lyrics. The final track, Hold Their Hand wraps it all up with more country-tinged swing. The chorus then takes us into gospel territory with the “touch my heart’ theme.

This whole album is drenched in class. Every band member contributes so well and they play with an enviable empathy. Although it is not my preferred style, and it isn’t an album I will seek out regularly, there is so much to be gleaned and enjoyed from it that you must give it a try. It will reward you with repeated listens too. Fans of Knopfler style laid-back, rootsy rock will love it.

SEVENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Musicians:
Richard Townend – Guitar/Vocals
Phil Wilson – Bass
Glen Buck – Drums
Phil Ockelford – Guitar
Phil Pawsey – Harp/Keys

Track Listing:

  1. God Bless America
  2. All Falling Down
  3. Fault Line
  4. Don’t Run Away
  5. Mr Bird
  6. Who You Gonna Call
  7. She’s Gone
  8. Walking in the Sun
  9. Pride
  10. Plenty of Time
  11. Sweet Dreams
  12. Ticket of Life
  13. Down Town Parking Lot
  14. Hold Their Hand


Richard Townend and the Mighty Bosscats Trump them all with God Bless America

 

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