CD Review: Joel Fisk & The Breakdown ~ The Well

FrontJoel Fisk & The Breakdown
The Well
Hollytree Studios

This is a new Essex based band, every member will be known from their prodigious work in various bands including Hokie Joint, LaVendore Rogue, Time Aves & Wolfpack and The Swamp Cats. Some of the band members have got together forming this new venture a quartet with lots of friends and they mean business they want to be recognised within the blues scene and beyond for playing Blues and Roots music that has been stirred but never shaken out of shape.

The Well, their debut album is eleven tracks that showcase the collective skills of Joel Fisk, Geoff Johnson, Rob “Tank” Barry, Bass & Stephen ”Cupsey” Cutmore this is a collection of roots and blues songs that we all know that have artfully been made relevant for the 21st century with five of the tracks re-arranged by Joel and have been given a fresh squeeze of verve and re-shaped to suit the style of the band. They have picked a mix of styles from the historical lexicon of roots and blues including Skip James, Willie Dixon, Son House, Charlie Patton and of course Robert Johnson and into the mix are a traditional song whose origin has been lost in the mists of time.

Now onto the important but is the music good from Joel Fisk & The Breakdown Yes is the resounding answer from bluesdoodles. It is a scorching album that is an interesting, infectious foot-tapping glorious collection, with superlative guitar playing, percussion that has that ‘cupsey’ effect with a bass line that just knits the sound together. Joel’s vocals are strong with different voices and ranges being used to reflect the music and the addition of Hammond Organ on some the tracks just adds another layer of sound.

Opening track is a Johnson classic, Stop Breaking Down, with a great guitar intro that draws you into the music you are captured in the net of The Well before Joel’s vocals hit the speakers, on this track the guitar sound is huge though never overpowering with Jon Amor guesting adding that special tonal depth he brings to any music he plays, the stand out thing for me was the quality of Joel’s singing as the last note dies away I am intrigued and excited about what other gems are lurking deep in the well of sounds being delivered by Joel Fisk & The Breakdowns.

Stranger Blues is opened by the distinctive and alluring drumming from Stephen and this is a great version of this well-known Elmore James song, by now we know this is no ordinary band churning out the classics this is a group of musicians who really care about the blues and want everyone to enjoy the music. Howlin For My Darling the Dixon number made famous by Howlin Wolf is stripped down and given a contemporary beat without losing that Chicago vibe it really works and makes you sit up and take real notice of the clever lyrics; I am sure Willie and The Wolf would recognise the integrity of the song retained in this 21st century re-vamp. Crowe Jane, with its rootsy approach with a country feel from the off with the whining country guitar sound amongst the blues is one of the highlights.

In fact as the album develops every track becomes stronger and stronger as in John The Revelator given a toned down Hokie treatment making the music and lyrics feel of menacing portents that send a shiver down the spine; it is Joel’s interpretation of the words as be sings them in a gruff emotive voice that gives you a tension driven track.

Charlie Patton’s; Oh Death is a lament with some stylish steel guitar work exhibiting what a classy guitarist Joel is that is so evident throughout the album, this is a brilliant rendition and leads nicely into the climax of the album the last two tracks with Ian Siegal guesting on both adding a whole new dimension to the finale.

Grinnin’ In Your Face, is a holler and Ian’s added dimension of mirroring the holler in the distance gently calling back this is a track that makes you stop in your track and just listen it is the simplicity of the collective artistry is compelling, then the final track of this debut album Last Fair Deal. Where Jon Amor joins the party to close what the album he opened, this is an up tempo country roots number this is a party number and gets your foot tapping and leaves you on a high note. Just waiting to catch this blues roots band that understands the tones and textures and plays with them to create a sound that is simply breath-taking and exciting British Blues scene there is a stylish act that will be heading onto stages and festivals and clubs across the land and in the meantime this album is a must have, listen to again and again album.

Bluesdoodles gives this CD TEN doodle paws out of TEN ….pawprint half inch

Track Listing

1. Stop Breaking Down (R.Johnson)
2. Bad Boy (E Taylor)
3. Stranger Blues (E. James)
4. Travelling Riverside Blues (R Johnson)
5. Howlin’ For My Darling (W. Dixon)
6. Crow Jane (S James)
7. John The Revelator (Trad)
8. Oh Death ( Charlie Patton)
9. Grinnin’ In Your Face (E.J. House)
10. Last Fair Deal Gone Down ( R Johnson)

Joel Fisk: Vocals, Guitars & Hammond Organ
Geoff Johnson: Guitar & Backing Vocals
Rob “Tank” Barry: Bass
Stephen ”Cupsey” Cutmore: Drums & Percussion
Guest Artists
Ian Siegal: Guitar & Vocals Tracks 9 & 10
Jon Amor: Guitar (Tracks 1 & 10)

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