Devon born Kris Barras isn’t new to the blues-rock stage, having released his first album, Lucky 13, in 2015. This new release is a step up for Barras, however, as it is his first for the Provogue/Mascot Label Group and should see him deservedly gain a wider audience.
He is a man with an intriguing history; after all, not many blues guitarists list their former occupation as a Mixed Martial Artist who has fought in arenas across the globe. “People used to think I was crazy to be fighting in cages, risking damage to my hands,” he says. “Truth is though, I always enjoyed it and found that the fighting world offered me more opportunities than the music industry. I got to fight in front of 8000 people in Asia, I would’ve much rather have played to them instead of getting punched in the face.” No argument from me!
He reveals a broad range of influences that include Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Howlin’ Wolf and Free, but has developed these with a modern take which defies direct comparison. His new album, The Divine and Dirty, is more rock than blues, has country undertones and an 80’s metal, anthemic approach apparent in many of the tracks.
There’s an emphasis throughout on big riffs, ‘earworm’ hooks and a strong vocal with enough versatility to cover the different styles. The production could have been a little cleaner, as the very capable band do not always have the clarity or separation I would prefer. For example, the drums are sometimes very flat in the mix. I am a fan of all instruments and like to hear them as clearly as the main protagonist. There is also a fine group of backing singers whose identity I have been unable to find, so well done to you, and sorry for no credit.
The album opens with Kick Me Down. It has a Bonamassa feeling to the layered guitars; the subtle slide and keys bring a great atmosphere to the song. The a cappella opening of Hail Mary leads to a lovely picked/slide riff. The superb solo and female backing vocals add to the texture. I Don’t Owe Nobody Nothing is next. Apart from terrible grammar, this has a slow burn start and builds, via a tantalising riff, to another great sing-along section. It does get a little repetitive, however. Propane sounds like it was written to be a single and is weaker as a consequence, although the solo is inspired. Wrong Place, Wrong Time gets us back rocking with a Pat Travers sounding intro and develops into a great fast shuffle blues. The piano gives a nice colour to the verses before the solo, which blisters and then soothes in equal measure. Yet another great slide driven riff opens Lovers Or Losers. Barras shows his vocal capabilities best here, and then gives a lesson in fast, not widdly, soloing. She’s More Than Enough has a Southern Rock flavour with a pleasing piano solo punctuating the repetitive multi-tracked whoa-whoas. Stitch Me Up has brilliant echoes of a Faces type honky-tonk piano sound filled out with a great chorus and a fiery solo. Gospel-tinged ballad Hold On For Tomorrow is the first ‘quiet’ track. If Poison had released this as a follow up to Every Rose, it would have sold bucket loads. Blood On Your Hands has an opening riff, which sounds like Walter Trout playing lead for the Eagles and benefits from another strong vocal and a vibrant guitar solo. The closing track is the heavy blues of Watching Over Me. The lyrics suggest that this is a heartfelt song for his late father. Emotionally delivered both vocally and instrumentally; the ‘just enough notes’ solo is a delight.
Overall then, The Divine And Dirty is a very good album. He is an excellent guitarist and with so many hooks and bristling solos, the album has drive, intensity and passion. There is a minor downside. I can’t help but feel that this is what Bon Jovi could have become if they didn’t remake Slippery When Wet with every release. Having said that, it is still very much Barras’ album and has a definite identity behind it. I’d like to think his next album will see his personality shine through even more.
Kris Barras Band – The Divine and Dirty – Mascot Label Group
Available in the following Formats – CD, Vinyl and Digital Formats
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
1. Kick Me Down
2. Hail Mary
3. I Don’t Owe Nobody Nothing
5. Wrong Place, Wrong Time
6. Lovers or Losers
7. She’s More Than Enough
8. Stitch Me Up
9. Hold On For Tomorrow
10. Blood On Your Hands
11. Watching Over Me
Vocals Guitar / Kris Barras
Keyboards / Josiah J Manning
Bass / Elliott Blackler
Drums / Will Beavis
23 March – The Wharf, Tavistock
24 March – The Palladium, Bideford
27 March – The Comrades Club, Caterham
28 March – Ypres Tavern, Sittingbourne
29 March – The Iron Road, Evesham
30 March – Yardbirds Club, Grimsby
31 March – Aatma, Manchester
04 April – The Bullingdon, Oxford
05 April – The Face Bar, Reading
06 April – The Warehouse, Harrogate
07 April – The Supporter’s Club, West Hartlepool
13 April – The Musician, Leicester
14 April – HRH Blues O2 Academy, Sheffield