It is many years since I visited the fine city of Aberdeen and I still hanker for the taste of a well hung Aberdeen Angus…that is a properly aged and very delicious type of steak, not at all what you were thinking! These delectable cuts are available darn sarf, but never seem to quite measure up to their northern counterparts… Since then I have kept up to date with the changing cityscape through the seriously good DS Logan McCrae and his unforgettable boss, the delightful Roberta Steele who feature in the novels by Stuart MacBride. I now learn from my travels in music of a blues trio from that wonderful city called, equally wonderfully, Full Fat. They already have two albums to their credit, ‘Most Of What Follows Is True’ from 2014 and a live album in 2015, and are active in the live scene across Scotland and the North East. They now unleash a five-track EP called In The Dark. Incidentally, the name Full Fat came from having to differentiate between Fraser the singer and Fraser the bassist; it was going to be the less than flattering “Full Fat” and “Slim” but decided wisely to go with “Big Fras” and “Wee Fras”, pronounced as in phrase.
Blues is certainly the basis for this recording but with some positive R’n’B influences along with obvious nods to SRV and Hendrix, flavoured with a bit of a Free. It was one of the live in the studio in one take kind of sessions that have resulted in a loose yet fluid collection of original tracks. The band is obviously well practised as the bass and drums are in total synch all the way, while the guitar is free to roam.
The opening track, Le Funk, is where SRV shows in the loose chord structures and Strat sound. It does have a hint of funk as the title suggests but it is primarily blues. The vocals are a little low in the mix and aren’t the strongest you’ll ever hear, but then it all fits together nicely, so I for one don’t care. The backing melody is insanely catchy and works rather well, with the bass following in a harmonic way…apart from the lack of a solo, this is great fun. Come Break My Heart is a slow blues with the vocals lower and careworn and hesitant at times. The music behind is high quality though and we get a carefully picked solo that oozes emotion to match the words. We even get a bass solo…hurrah! It is one that is worth listening to too, as it has the old Fender Precision kind of sound rather than the crisper, soulless sounds of some of the modern bass guitars in favour at the moment. The next track is Doctor Longhair…dedicated to the Professor Longhair (also known as Henry Roeland ‘Roy’ Bird). Unsurprisingly then, the jazzy/R’n’B, basis to this song is slightly reminiscent of the Prof’s Tipitina. Regardless, it is a fun and energy filled romp with a well-judged and toned solo in the middle. Brand New (Again) is another funk-infused blues track with a bass solo and then a bass/guitar duet…you gotta love it! Temper Temper closes this EP with a Free crossed with Cream feel behind it…Free in the pace and phrasing of the intro and Cream as it builds into a faster paced blues with a hint of late 60s R’n’B and an echo of that not quite original ZZ Top riff which appears all over the musical landscape; including Spirit In The Sky by Norman Greenbaum, which is where I first heard it. We also get a classy wah’d solo included to wrap up a damn fine piece of work.
Some will inevitably listen to this EP and criticize the vocals as a weakness…get past it! Many guitarists are not what you could in all consciousness call good vocalists. Listen instead to three guys putting their heart and soul into some quality blues that, whilst showing the inspiration clearly, they still stamp their own identity across the tracks. And where else are you likely to get guitar and bass solos and duets? I thoroughly enjoyed these five tracks and will seek out their earlier stuff and look forward to the next one.
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Le Funk
- Come Break My Heart
- Doctor Longhair
- Brand New (Again)
- Temper Temper
Fraser McKain: guitar, vocals
Fraser Urquhart: bass
Simon Rattray: drums
Recorded and mixed by Mark Freegard at Kyoti Studios, Glasgow.