Naming your band after a Lower Manhattan street gang may seem a little strange when the members could be the introduction to one of those ‘tales’…a Welshman, a Frenchman and a Brazilian walk into a studio! Well this power trio did just that and, after a live album in 2019, Five Points Gang now release their first studio album called, Wanted. (Googling the name results in being swamped by the original gang history and related books, web entries and a board game!)
Joe Pearson on guitar and vocals, Gaet Allard on drums and Dinho Barral are the trio and, after the pandemic snookered their touring plans, they channelled their energies into putting together the new album – a follow up of sorts to the 2019 live release.
Joe sums it up thus: “This album represents the first time I’ve been truthful on a recording. I started playing guitar 29 years ago, and I feel that this album finally achieves the ambitions I had as an 8-year-old.” Classing themselves as a ‘progressive blues band’, they have assembled thirteen tracks of blues, funk, jazz and, yes, a little bit of prog with a hint of grunge showing very occasionally…plus an intangible mix of the trio’s homelands.
So, to the music and the opener, How Long. Starting in a Hendrixian, Crosstown Traffic-y fashion, it becomes a funky blues addressing some serious issues and asking, “How long to equality?” The first neat solo has some clever chord work, while the second one has runs and bends playing with the melodies nicely
. All in All echoes the SRV style as the opening phrases lead to a classic blues-rock song: although after the rather good (short) wah’d solo, they throw in a hint of playful reggae to keep us on our toes. Let’s Stay Together unusually employs the same riff throughout…instead the brilliant bassline and spot-on drums carry the song allowing the guitar to add its voice freely with clever runs: the solo is also worth the wait (although I wish Gaet had used the crash cymbal a bit less.)
Drifting Away is back to funkiness woven blues and more SRV echoes. Chris Rand is credited with just sax, but it does sound like a full horn accompaniment and the guitar solo is another (short) example of Joe’s and producer Julien Baraness’ fretboard skills.
All She Said is a blues ballad that evokes, in my mind at least, a Jeff Healey/Backdoor Slam sound…that said, it is all original and any comparisons are complimentary. The guitar solo is crafted and sounds like it was played through a Roland…it works for its too short existence.
What Kind of Man is funk hinted Hendrix/SRV with a brilliant bass line: the first solo also has James Marshall at its heart and it works very well and the second, wah’d one is even better. All Points Bulletin promises ‘low down dirty blues’ and is pure fun as Joe assigns names from the original Gang: Lucky Luciano on the bass and, on the drums the killer Johnny Tee… no name associated with Joe; let’s assume he took on the persona of the gang founder, Paul Kelly. Regardless, it is a pumped-up blues to enjoy. Deep Inside shifts into an almost disco pop-soul hybrid with a brilliant guitar solo that saves it from the skip button.
Made Man is back in funky blues territory with clever chord work and dazzling runs and then delivers a superb example of wah work that support the notes rather than disguise them…albeit a very short example. Love by the Gun is a guitar-led, rock-based ballad with the guitar ‘doing a Marsden’: that is, using a few notes to make the point, not unnecessary flurries. The song as whole sounds invested in early 70s balladic rock, which is a good thing, and we even get a bass solo that is rather nice: both to hear and for the fact that the undervalued instrument is given chance to shine. The closing section is a discordant meshing of all three instruments that could be Faust or could be an end of the night jam in a jazz club.
The Only One starts all subtle blues-rock before the chorus bursts into being with that hint of grunge I mentioned, then back to subtle with some nice guitar fills. The Secret opens with some neat snare work and the, now familiar, fluid chord work carrying the riff; also some more nice wah leading to the first chorus but no proper solo.
The final track, I See You Now, is all low register vocals, so no throat tearing until the chorus at least! The laid back structure has some great playing from all three and the pure tone of the lead guitar phrasing is welcome…as is the sparse and excellent solo.
In summary, then, it may not be earth-shatteringly new but they feed their influences and write new old songs: that is very difficult to do and they do it very well. On the strength of this, I am very confident of two things: the next album will be even better and they will be a great live band who, as it happens, are on tour as I type.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for an album of quality blues with a few other flavours mixed subtly in. It may not be earth-shatteringly new but they feed their influences and write new old songs: that is very difficult to do and they do it very well.
All in All
Let’s Stay Together
All She Said
What Kind of Man
All Points Bulletin
Love by the Gun
The Only One
I See You Now
Dinho Barral – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Gaet Allard – Drums, Backing Vocals
Joe Pearson – Guitar, Lead Vocals
Julien Baraness – Backing Vocals (Tracks 1,2 & 7), Lead Guitar (Track 4)
Chris Rand – Hammond B3 (Tracks 1,3 & 5), Saxophone (Track 4)
Wanted is released on Lunar Records on 24th September and they’re just about to go out on tour with labelmates the Mark Pontin Group.
17 September – The Golden Lion, 2 High St, Romford, RM1 1HR
24 September – The Chintz Bar, The Loft, Old Brewery Yard, High St, Falmouth, TR11 2BY
25 September – Ain’t Nothing but the Blues, 20 Kingly Street, Soho – W1B 5PZ
01 October – Albert’s Corner, Prince Albert St, Crewe CW1 2DF
02, 03 October -The Callander Jazz & Blues Festival, Callander, Scotland
06 October – supporting Jimmy Carpenter at The Voodoo Rooms, 19A West Register St, Edinburgh, EH2 2AA, Scotland
09 October– The Punch House, 7 West Street, Ware, Hertfordshire, SG12 9EE
16 October – The Acklam Village Market, 4 – 8 Acklam Road, W10 5TY, London
23 October – The McCafferty’s Guest House, 699 High Road, Ilford, IG3 8RH
05 November – The Nelson Arms, 15 Merton High Street, London, SW19 1DF
06 November – The George 2nd, 70 Bute St, Luton, LU1 2EY
17 November – The Bunkhouse, 24 Park St, Swansea SA1 3DJ
18 November – The Retro Bar, 78 Sackville St, Manchester M1 3NJ
(iTunes moved on to one of the best British Blues bands…ever. Peter Green (later versions don’t count to my ear) and Fleetwood Mac were simply brilliant and Black Magic Woman and the genius version of Hellhound on My Trail proved it once again.)