Sometimes an E.P. disappoints, not just because it leaves you wanting more but as often with a collection of Short Stories the artist has not used the six tracks to truly promote the nuances that make an artist demand attention. This is not the case on Dan Burnett’sSmall World E.P. Yes, you are left wanting more. But he opens the door into his world of musical tones and shapes on Small World a collection of five originals and the bonus track a stylish cover of the oft-covered Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower. Explore A Small World Enlarged by Dan Burnett, on an E.P. that connects to you personally up close with intimate insights into Burnett’s music.
Opening with the title track, Small World is a light ditty with strong piano with hints of New Orleans as we are in Pittsburg with Dan as he realizes how small and connected we are in a world where contact with each other is easy. The harmonica moans as we eavesdrop on a drunken conversation in the early hours at a hotel bar. The power is in our hands to change relationships and feelings to communicate. The Piano from Dan is superb promising more of what is to come. The mood changes with Battle Scars, Dan refers to this as his ‘mental health anthem’. Taking us behind visible scars with a simple number sung with passion and empathy and deep understanding as the organ takes up the melodic tones. The next two tracks explore relationships as the deepness of keys are added with another set of strong lyrically driven songs. The last of the originals Reason For Living, written for Dan’s son Alfie and life-affirming about the changing power of his son in his life. The piano is strong with a driving beat and leaves you understanding Dan and yourself a bit more.
The bonus track Dan re-arranges the Dylan classic All Along The Watchtower. Stripped back with grand piano and organ intermingling creating the atmosphere that lets the lyrics pop out with intensity and poetry. Reminding us of the influence of Dylan on songwriting, Burnett has reclaimed this classic for the singer-songwriter and not just for a would-be Hendrix. The atmosphere is built and the laughter heard in response to the words adds to the intimacy of the album. For twenty-four minutes we are in a deeply personal space, the songs sung for us in the most intimate of shows that you can listen to whenever you want. These are six shining gems produced and delivered with love Get close and personal and explore a Small World enlarged beautifully by Dan Burnett.
Robert Plant’s Solo Album Carry Fire the music burns deep. The music has hidden depths, as layers of tonal shapes and textures interlace with the thoughtful lyrics. Carry Fire is rooted in the earth, ethereal as air, turbulent as water and hot as fire as the four elements encapsulated across the eleven tracks. Joining Plant on his eleventh solo album for the second time are The Sensational Shape Shifters. The tonal range of the album is mellow and fruitful as Plant captures a misty melancholy yearning that is often felt in autumn. The colours are rich and fiery but these soon will fade as the year turns and seasons come and go. The soundscapes are painted that weaves through the tracks shaped by the instruments chosen as the passions wax and wane. Opening Carry Fire, with a jaunty number The May Queen we start off looking forward or back to a different season. The percussive beats hint at dance, light and merriment and surrendering as folk and rock merge at a crossroads of Plant’s own design contemporary and rooted deep in the roots of world folk traditions from North Africa and closer to home. Beguiling leaving you wanting to hear more as we Carry Fire on a journey with the lyrics of Robert Plant once more.
The use of a myriad of instruments on Carry Fire reflects the wealth of tones available to artists like Plant and Steve Hackett’s album Siren Nights earlier this year. Modern folk/roots/rock music is not just guitar led it is strengthened with the tonal complexity of instruments used across the world rooted in the earth creating a fiery musical backdrop. The array of instruments is a reflection of the virtuosity of The Sensational Space Shifters, who are with a selection of the instruments captured on Carry Fire. They are Austin Adams (Guitars, Oud, Percussion & Tambourine) Liam “Skin” Tyson, (Guitars, Dobro, twelve string, pedal steel etc.) John Baggott, (Keyboards, Moog, t’bal, bendir, slide guitar) Dave Smith (bendir, djembe, drums) and joining them are Seth Lakeman (Viola & fiddle) and Albanian Cellist Redi Hasa.
We are on the move, a feeling of urgency with the beating of drums as Plant explores the negativity of colonialism and modern topics that are part of the political, cultural and personal landscapes with nationalism addressed in Carving Up the World Again… A Wall Not A Fence. The beat is frenetic, his voice raised in passionate anger as he spits out the words. The instruments burn and coil around the lyrics, the attention is one-hundred percent on Plant’s impassioned lyrical outpouring. Powerful music for the age.
The title track coalesces around the instruments conjuring a fire in the deep darkness of a desert encampment. Plant once again captures the mood with the depth of lyric and the power of delivery. Deeper and with a sultry edge the younger Plant voice did not deliver. Age has shaped the interpretation of lyrics and music. The traditional North African instruments a song of love and the pain we inflict on ourselves and each other full of wistfulness and hope as Robert sings “I will Carry Fire for you….” Once again the song is rooted in tradition ground deep in the desert sands.
The tonal resonance changes with Bones Of Saints, hard-edged less fusion more rock. On the only cover on the album, Ersel Hickey’s Bluebirds Over The Mountain, Robert Plant is joined by a Chrissie Hynde the vocals reflect the changes in vocal ranges. The play of percussive power and violin adds to the hunger and energy in the number. Closing the album with Heaven Sent, the embers of Carry Fire are fading and the song gently leads us to the closing notes. Seasons turn and we all age. This is a testament to the longevity of Robert Plant who has delivered a beautiful reflective album. The hints of his past musical explorations can be heard as gentle echoes. They never overwhelm Carry Fire an album-defining Robert Plant in 2017.
New Album New style The Truth still Laurence Jones
How to get noticed in the world replete with Social Chatter? As a Musician release a new album and change your style.Laurence Jones has done just that on The Truth. In an age where intro’s over 10 seconds are deemed too long, will fans of Laurence’s previous releases take the time to listen to the album a few times. As the truth is, it is still Laurence’s melodic vocals, his stinging guitar licks and timing. What has changed, the blues have been mellowed no rich veins of blues shuffles, riffs and hooks. The Truth is accomplished and more commercial. The album definitely has listenability appeal.
The opening track has grab appeal. This is a different side of Laurence with the vocals strong and the guitar slinger is letting his voice be heard. The power of the chorus on What Would You Do will have audiences singing along. Echoes of Hamilton Loomis in tone and delivery.
The inner funkiness of the new Laurence glimmers on Don’t Look Back. That is what I advise listeners to do; don’t compare enjoy the album for what it has to offer. The guitar and vocals play off each other and the harmonies are sweet. Nothing on the album is overplayed. The drama builds and catches you unexpectedly. The album is not a set of ten tracks that are shaped by the guitar. The instruments are the base for the song. The slick and smooth blues licks are there, just not in your face.
The refrain throughout the album is relationships, love and how it makes you feel. The yearning to be loved is explored on Keep Me Up At Night. This is another cross-genre tracks, with radio play potential outside of the inner blues circuit. The sound of the album is mature, catchy and full of great tone with textures smoothed out and an understanding of what is pleasing on the ear.
We have a deep groove laid down by Greg Smith on Bass as Laurence asks you to Give Me Your Time, listening to The Truth is time well spent. Expect it to be different no longer guitar led blues. The replacement is subtle with the feel of blues ever present just under the dominant chorus and strong song.
The title track opens with mellow simple keys from Bennett Holland picked up by Laurence’s guitar with the sweetest refrain, with a beat of Phil Wilson’s drum heralding the vocals as Jones asks, ‘Do you ever wonder what It feels like?’ The tone is mellow, reflective the gentler side then the number builds and the old energy is once again glimpsed. Looking forward to hearing the numbers live under the heat of the lights.
The album livens up with a rocky beat on Gone Away. The instruments howl and wail once again his vocals have the strength to demand centre stage and the harmonizing of the chorus stands out then the guitar punches out the lick that curls and weaves itself around the vocals. The blues guitar is back on Can’t Go On Without You. The timing is spot-on as it is throughout the album. Loving the way there is never a battle between guitar and voice both have their time and place to make a statement across The Truth.
The album is a crossroad moment for Laurence Jones. I am positive The Truth will win him many new fans. Recorded in Miami, produced by Gregory Elias and mixed by Juan Mario Aracil; The Truth hits the mark it is an album that will be returned to and explored with pleasure every time.
Wonderful One-Man Band Steve Hill – Solo recordings Vol 3
Well, why have I not heard of Steve Hill? Why have I had to wait until Volume Three to discover Steve Hill as a Phenomenon? A One Man Band who is loud, bad and a little bit dangerous. His love of blues and rock spills out of every number he plays on the album Solo Recordings Vol 3. All the instruments are played to an incredibly high-standard live, vocals, guitar and kick drum creating a fluid and fluent sound that makes you want to drink and party. You can hear some amazing bass notes as well how? By feeding 3 strings through an octaver guitar pedal hooked up to a bass amp. He is ready to amaze you on this album.
Steve is no longer one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. The cat is out of the bag, Steve has burst, with tone and attitude, onto the international stage an overnight sensation that’s 20 years in the making. He’s an ambitious and raucous force to be reckoned with on the Canadian blues-rock scene. Now, he’s ready to break out internationally
Steve Hill is a multi-instrumentalist with a shelf of awards including 2015 JUNO award winner for Blues Album of the Year. With Solo Recordings – Volume 3 more awards must be just following along…
The album has three distinct elements all portraying the depth of imagination of tone and power that defines Steve Hill One-Man band on Solo Recordings Volume 3. The first element is powered by rock, beats that are raw, raucous and exciting, there are six originals. Then we have a further two sets of three songs, stripped backed melodic acoustic and the re-imagined, mainstays of man tables band set list. There may be three styles and approaches but this is for certain they are equally exciting, colourful and brilliant.
Your first exclamation when Damned pours through your speakers. Is dam that must be a band who else is playing with Steve Hill? The rock with influences that are mined deep in the heart of the blues is rich and multi-layered. How can one person make this sound as a one-man band? This is an individual that wants to recreate the sound and energy of rock without bandmates. He achieves that and as he proclaims on Rhythm all over. Joining guitar and his wonderful rich vocals is the harmonica as he is now a Smoking Hot Machine.
This is a one-band band that has a multitude of tonal facets that glisten and make your speakers purr with delight. As he slots in through the album his solo renditions of blues with the deepest blue seas flowing through Still A Fool & A Rollin’ Stone. As he constructs the mood, it is deep, dark and there is a feeling that there is something lurking just out of eyesight. Is it the devil to see if Steve Hill should be down at his infamous crossroads? The guitar takes on new tonal cadence hard-hitting as we are Rollin and Tumblin with Hill’s solo experience he is sharing with us. Lovers of music want to join Steve and be part of the moment he creates. The energy, authenticity and raw power make every track red hot. We definitely will not be Breaking Down in despair in front of the monstrous sound created by Hill.
Joining the blues to the rock and the rock to the blues are the trio of acoustic tracks Slowly Slipping Away, Troubled Times and Emily. The harmonica and the gentle punctuation of the guitar as the vocals become deep and personal singing the lyrics for you. One thing for certain no-one would be Slowly Slipping Away in Steve Hill’s company. Troubled Times a song with a gentle rendition of harsh and thoughtful lyrics with finger-picking showing another facet of his skills. The number flows into Emily and the beat picks up with a country vibe. The tone changes we are having fun.
Steve closes out the musical journey with a rocking original Walking Grave completing the circle of sound he began Damned. The album proving once again Steve Hill performs with his heart on his sleeve, using the textures and tones of all the instruments creating a mood. He plays with instinctive feel letting each part of his band have a voice. Throughout Steve Hill’s voice is in control commanding your attention.
Steve Hill – Solo Recordings: Volume 3 – No Label Records
Black Country Communion Marches In With Rock on BCCIV
With the album full of golden energy. A burning saffron Phoenix. The cover shouts to you listen I am a mighty album ready and waiting for your attention. When you are a reviewer sometimes you forget to write and just let the music pour out of the speaker. This is just one of those occasions. I kept listening filled with a golden rock glow but could not find the words. Now here are my humble thoughts.
Like the Roman Legions march straight and true BCCIV rock goes straight to your Rock jugular and connects. Mark Anthony may have led the IV legion – did he ever visit The Black Country… that is a History lesson! In the here and now Black Country Communion fourth studio album is firmly in the grip of the vocal might of Black Country’s son Glenn Hughes.
Opening the album with the first single Collide, it is the count in from the studio you here first. Then the Collision as guitar meets the mighty vocal tubes of Glenn. The Rhythm section gives the track power and shape provided by the keys. It is undeniably Glenn Hughes’ vocals that demand attention the rest is just the platform.
The hype of Black Country Communion being back in the studio is justified from the first to the last, not across the ten tracks. The coming together of musicians who individually shine, sometimes is a disappointment, not this time it is a communion that is holy. The album flows as the shapes change burning brightly from hot red to amber glows. Out of the embers is the epic Joe Bonamassa number The Last Song For My Resting Place. For nearly eight minutes you are captured entwined in a warm Celtic fused magic as the album calms down, takes a breath but never loses its energy. With a lyrical story reaching back to harvest and music around the fire created by the judicious inclusion of fiddle and mandolin. It is the crying pain and glory of Bonamassa’s guitar that holds you in the grip of the music with its soul and passion pain and joy. A truly inspirational tale of the Titanic’s Violinist Wallace Hartley. The magic as the guitar fades and the hook for mandolin and the story continues. What a number, follow that BCC. They do. Upping the tempo with sharp guitar collecting together the muscle of Classic Rock on Sway.
Now we are taken to the ocean shore for The Cove. Full of atmospheric swirls of guitar and keys as Joe guitar takes the helm. Ode to the dolphin is breathtaking. A tribute to the senseless killing of dolphins every year at The Killing Cove, Taiji, Japan. The heartache is captured through the assured delivery of the message. Parcelled in instrumentation that reflects words and builds the emotions.
An album that has no fillers, The Crow, full of guitar the urgency picked up by the bass then Jason Bonham’s drums. The urge to move is then pulled together with the keys of Derek Sherinian, leading you into the longest track Wanderlust. Full of tempo changes, melodic as if you were walking down Abbey Road. Masterful playing and an inspired use of a Grand piano leading us into the last verse.
Tribute to Glenn Hughes’ Dad, sung for both his parents. Melodic, and leaves you in the certainty that at the end it is love that remains. Closing out the album with When The Morning Comes. Returning home, dream-time and we are left with the glorious echoes of an album that is classic, modern, entertaining and has a message.
The legions of Classic rock are mighty. The influence and legacy of the greats can be heard echoing throughout. BCCIV rises from these ashes creating an album that heralds a new golden age of rock for now. Relevant, contemporary and magnificent.
Wayward Sons Explore through Rock Our Ghosts Of Yet To Come
Debut albums are the calling card of any new band. Wayward Sons as they explore their brand of Rock on Ghosts Yet To Come deliver a gold-plated debut. If you have seen them play live you know what to expect high-octane vocal powered heavy melodic rock. If you are yet to catch the licks and riffs that define Wayward Sons welcome aboard as you explore Our Ghosts Of Yet To Come. The band vocalist needs no introduction Toby Jepson, as he flamboyantly uses his vocal prowess to curl around the guitar-driven
sound. Providing the backdrop of cascading power are guitarist Sam Wood, keys Dave Kemp and the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Nic Wastell and Phil Martini on Drums. The band bring together an impressive collection of bands they have played and life on the rocky road of touring.
With the album named Ghosts of Yet To Come, are we looking forward into an apocalyptic landscape? No. This is an album like the ghost in Scrooge who is looking back connecting to sounds, politics and moods that have shaped the here and now. This is one-hundred percent rock n‘ roll back to the basics that have made Rock the tour de force for over sixty years in popular, crowd driving music.
Opening with Alive, Sam Wood’s mesmeric and powerful guitar catches your ear as Toby’s vocals take on the licks set down. You feel alive, well and kicking listening to Wayward Sons. This is setting the trend of an album that is loud, determined, when needed raunchy and drenched in listenability. Ghost is the title track at the heart of the album. The bass line is deep dark reflecting the lyrics about consumerism and spending. Summed up in phrases like “You got a First World problem we will take care of that”, “ Buy yourself a happy life with your plastic friend let them tie the noose as you spend….” I recommend listen once to let the music flow and fill your soul. Then again really listening to the lyrics this is an album with something to say.
All ten tracks add a voice and textured shape to the album. The bass is given centre stage to introduce I Don’t Wanna Go. Dirty grooves laid down thick with textured energy. Full of swagger and style this is a heavier track that you just have to agree I want to be a rock n roller and keep on listening to Wayward Sons. Killing Time, definitely the killer track of the album strong and forceful. Grinding rock that drives you on as the excitement mounts. Your inner soul ignites with the force of the power of rock. To follow we are in a delightful Crush with Sam’s guitar taking centre stage as the inner Thin Lizzy is harnessed and let fly.
Closing out a majestic debut is Something Wrong. One thing for certain there is nothing wrong with Wayward Son’s debut album. In the studio, they unleashed the spirit of rock n roll and flew as Wayward Sons Explore through Rock Our Ghosts Of Yet To Come
What sets Ghosts Of Yet To Come ahead of many of the albums recently released is that it is an honest authentic guitar-driven rock with lyrics that have something to say. Rock n’ roll, raw genuine, inspirational and you just want to turn up the volume and listen again and again.
Steve Hackett Exploring The Night Siren on his latest Album
Steve Hackett Exploring The Night Siren on his latest Album, his twenty-fifth as a solo artist a silver landmark of a distinguished career. Sit back, and be taken on an extravaganza of musical experiences. The Night Siren has its own tuneful call, melding together modern rock instruments with sounds from the dawn of time as Persian Oud meets Andean Quena via the strings of the viola and bass clarinet. Incorporating tradition with contemporary sounds works as The Night Siren weaves musical tonal textures under the guidance and artistry of Steve Hackett. With the complexities of string, woodwind and percussive instrumentation building a landscape where there is no simple journey of going in a straight line to your destination. The music flows, creating eddies, swells and detours, taking your ear to places that are delightful as Progressive Rock fills the room with layers of interest. Never self-indulgent always with a purpose exploring peace, how light will stop the plunge into darkness and self-destruction.
Hackett has gathered around him a group of artists who develop the scope of the instrument that shapes the music without constraints. The album has a global vision, reflected as we travel from the cold to heat. Steve Hackett travelled around the planet working with Icelandic drummer Gunnlaugur Briem, Azerbaijan tar player Malik Mansurov, Israeli vocalist Kobi Farhi and Arabic singer Mira Awad, who represented Israel in the, Eurovision song contest.
Opening the epic musical journey we join the legendary prog-rock guitarist and vocalist as the veil is lifted and we see Behind The Smoke. Behind the smoke on this socio-political song exploring displaced refugees and leader’s own self-interest of protecting borders. This is an album of music without borders, inventive and without self-constraint. This is music that is both considered, intriguing and above all else exciting. My first experience of the stringed Persian instrument Tar; the mystical sound pulls in the guitar and the sultry Eastern vocals from Amanda. The instrumental breaks have a sense of purpose and inherent rhythm that says more than the words. The didgeridoo under Sara’s guidance is joined by her father, Ferenec Kovacs trumpet as we travel to Fifty Miles from the North Pole. The opening is quiet, the sound is cool creating a soundscape of a journey across a landscape cold, ‘’it can freeze your soul”
The dramatic opening of El Niño with drums and strings describes the power of this force of nature as the orchestra of sounds creates the soundscapes of nature’s fury. All the tracks are mesmerising, as we step to the Other Side of the Wall we enter a dream zone shaping a different hegemony one of peace, solution and tranquility refuting the way the world seems to be a head full of xenophobia, hatred and intolerance. The music is cathartic a window of hope and renewal.
Rock, rises above on Inca Terra and In Another Life. Civilizations from the past connect the two melodies and cascade through the middle of the album, revitalizing and shining light on mysteries. Instruments from previous times help in the linking of the world of the past and now as quena and Uilleann pipes are used to great effect in shaping the melodic mood.
As the album draws to its worldly conclusion West To East fate is explored as we are lead to ask why the birds have left the sky. It is a message that we need to look into the East not expect the traffic of understanding has to flow East to West. We need to find what we have in common and then Peace can be found. There is hope and this is the track that lightens the night siren with a message of renewal. Closing with The Gift the shortest track, we are under the spell of Steve Hackett’s guitar playing and the lusciousness of the strings picking up the melody. The instrumental pulls the themes together once more re-affirming the talent of Steve Hackett.
The Night Siren, is more than a collection of eleven tracks. The Night Siren a celebration of the depth of cultures throughout the world. The wealth of music, the wealth of tones, the wealth of what is good in humanity. The Night Siren is a call to action for a different world. Open, giving and tolerant. The Night Siren is composition that will on every listen enthrall and entrance. Prog-rock does not get better than this. Albums do not get better than this. The Night Siren is masterful and the best yet from the talented musical mind of Steve Hackett.
Second albums are always a difficult journey to take. Following on From Quick & Dirty; Blues Engine are on the right Blues Tracks with number two. Tracks definitely consolidates this London-based band Blues credential
Opening with a measured soulfully melodic Drop Dead Ugly, the reverse of what the title may have suggested, definitely gentle rather than dirty blues. As you step on board the eleven musical detours the Blues Engine are taking us on Tracks. The vocals of Katya Chernyakova are full of luscious textures that are reflected back by the considered guitar work of Alex Cooray. The juxta positioning of crisp and soft, sweet and sour are a signature of Blues Engine giving the blues a contemporary edge whilst still full of tradition. The ten originals and a single cover keeps you entertained and engaged as the Tracks widen out with Gunnysack John, harder edge faster tempo and juicy harp from guest Nick Payne. It is the rhythm section that keeps this ditty on the right track curling towards its destination with beat that is sustained and clear the combination of new drummer Hamish Burchell & bassist Alexander K Liutai. The tracks meander with a gentle flow of the blues picking up a Latino vibe on Lonely By Your Side full of warmth, the quartet are having fun exploring the tempos that mix up the blues. Opening with deep rumbling bass Boatman’s Blues takes us down the river with Alex on guitar raising the tone and Katya hitting the mid-range this is a sad song full of blues wistfulness.
Closing out with their version of Jimmy Cox’s Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out; leaving you with blues chiming as the sound fades. Having reached the end one track resonates as the star it is a Peter Green infused, British Blues number Tell Me A Riddle. Slow, thoughtful, melodies that suit the tonal range of Blues Engine.
What stops this album being outstanding is difficult to pinpoint. Every track is true to the sound Blues Engine creates. It is an album you would return to and smile and joy the sharp blues of Tracks that glint like well-cut Sapphire, reflecting out and beyond the scope of electric blues. Missing, it is a cutting edge, the dirty tones of blues and stories that really shout for attention. That said Tracks certainly never goes off the rails under the hands of Blues Engine.
The clocks change in March, but Midnight is still the witching, hour, mysterious dark or starlight with a hint of romance and forthcoming days. Lewis Watson is back with a powerful new album Midnight, following on from his acclaimed debut The Morning. Midnight cements him firmly as a talented pop orientated singer/songwriter with hints of melancholy and shafts of joy running through the album.
Midnight has a fresh feel, nothing is over produced and there is a lightness of touch reflecting that the Oxford based musician recorded the entire album in a fortnight with a live band, under the watchful guidance of producer Anthony West.
The influences are present but with the lightest of touches as the voice of Lewis Watson is the dominant force combined with his acoustic power. Opening with reverb underneath the vocals adding to a mixed reaction that of uncertainty and the power of the music it has a force that makes a pop song stand out as it fizzes with energy. The dominance of the simplicity of the form of singer/songwriter with the acoustic guitar is apparent in When The Water Meets The Mountain, the sound fills out with melodic and harmonising backing vocals. The number has a sense of purpose within its elegant searing musical beauty.
The short and catchy Forever is a catchy number leading into Run with its ear catching opening of movements in a room a record player and clicking clock, with a harder edge of grand piano and strumming guitar picking up the melody. Then Lewis’ vocals picking up the lyrics sad and questioning as the nights are getting longer. Counting in for Slumber featuring Lucy Rose, the acoustic guitar is strummed and the two voices harmonise with a simplicity as a lullaby sinks you into sleep. The closing track is the title song, Midnight again the simplicity of a piano as the intro adds rather diminishes the power as we visualize the cold and Northern Lights and a feeling of contentment.
This is a pop album with the added elements of songs with depth of feeling and interesting layering of tones and effects so that the listeners ears remain focused on the music at Midnight. Lewis Watson, is beguiling and a songster who uses the idiom of pop to deliver his songs. Lewis Watson new album Midnight Simply Pops!
Do not confuse the title with anything maritime! Solas is Irish Gaelic for Light, not the acronym – Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). With that clarified what about the music on their seventh studio album Solas? If you expect Rock with a loud shout you will be disappointed. If you want light-rock fused with roots of Irish folk, lyrics that curl around with melodic intensity you are in the right listening zone.
The Answer, have taken one helluva musical journey over the ten years since the debut album Rise with its blues-infused rock. Now on Solas the exploration of their Gaelic heritage in the musical tone and lyrical shaping full of misty mysticism, fear of the dark, hidden regrets and the light of hope is apparent.
Opening with the title track with a wave of sound or percussion that feels like a wave, James Heatley’s relentless drumming is the backdrop for Cormac Neeson’s vocals. The chorus is melodic full of Celtic harmonies flowing as the music takes you deep into the soul of the band, their experiences and reflecting the light of Solas. The guitar work is huge as the number closes with a lead break that promises much from Paul Mahon. Rock firmly rooted in the traditional shapes Beautiful World with its captivating opening chords full of Eastern promise. That opens up with instrumentation with the energy of rock contained to be played at eight, not eleven. The result is the lyrics dominate and it is the voice that is the main instrument, with Micky Water’s bass, along with the guitar and drums playing a supporting role filling in the gaps acting as lead breaks for the words.
Yes, now three tracks in this Irish-infused rock harnessing tones and textures from the folk tradition. The Answer, on Solas have a story to be told and heard. The ballad Battle Cry, this will be fantastic live as the audience picks up the chorus and lifts the spirits of all hearing the music. This is Irish folk-rock that fills the heart with melodic joy as Gaelic merges with the English. Half-way through Thief of Light takes us with mandolin and Celtic harmonious riffs far away with a reflective sound, that reminds us that sometimes we need to start again as if the dark is to be conquered and energy regained.
Then, a change of musical shape with Being Begotten as we head to a blues-infused Southern Swamp leaving the emerald-green of Irishness. This blues-infused feel reflecting their debut album Rise is found again with Southern-rock Demon Driven Man, with a rock n’ roll upbeat feel upfront and full of energy.
The three bonus tracks have an acoustic feel In This Land, Light In The Darkness both full of folk-inspired chords and structure and then a fuzzy reinterpretation of Pink Floyd’s Money.
The Answer on Solas deliver reflective rock, light and at times whimsical not something to play loud and hard but to sit and enjoy. Reflecting the turmoil of life and the need to go back to their roots and bring pure Irish gold into their rock. This is Rock that has a gentler edge softened by the winds of time and gives you space to reflect before cranking up the volume with a rock offering from a different part of The Answer’s journey or someone else in your collection.
That said Solas definitely has a place in your rock collection bridging rock with tradition. It is an album you will return to and on every occasion, your appreciation of the subtleties will grow as you hear more of the clever lyrics missed on the last outing.