304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
First of all, I’m not Welsh and learned what little I know of that lyrical, complex language while travelling around Wales when I was working (mainly from road signs… ‘araf’ means slow; ‘gwasenathau’ means services; ‘Maesglas’ means Greenfield etc. as well as picking up the odd few words from my then customers and, just recently, from watching the brilliant, dark drama ‘Hidden’ on BBC Four.) So, when I received the latest album from Welsh blues stalwarts Glas, I admit I was a little confused…’glas’ means green, or so I thought. Now I learn that in modern Welsh, glas is used for the colour ‘blue’, but in old Welsh it was ‘green’ or even ‘gray’. This is further compounded by one track being about the colour green. I have decided however that here, ‘glas’ means blue, so to an ignorant Englishman, this new album is called Blue by Blue!
If you are unfamiliar with Glas, to give you an idea of the respect and appreciation they have already earned, they have shared the stage with such luminaries as Albert Lee, The Groundhogs, Bill Kirchen and Deke Leonard among others. That respect is also reflected by the presence of guest musicians Jason Ricci on the harmonica (Ricci has played with Johnny Winter and Walter Trout as well as his own albums (try his ‘Rocket No.9’ if you like lots of harp)) and Bill Kirchen (probably best known from his time with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen and he earned the title of ‘Titan of the Telecaster for obvious reasons). Glas is almost continuously touring, so keep an eye on your local venues and check them out in the live environment.
This latest album, Blue, is the band’s second, and benefits from being 11 tracks of all original compositions and, significantly, most are actually original. There is no doubt that they all firmly grounded in the blues and rhythm and blues, with an edge of rock and a blast of country for good measure. What composer Dai John has managed to do is resist churning out 12 bar blues or using typical stylings from the old masters. (Their first album, From the Blues to Your Shoes, came out in 2015 and is reviewed elsewhere on Bluesdoodles.)
It all starts with possibly the least original track, Blackwood Boogie which is, as the title suggests, a barrelling boogie, shot through with R’n’B and is certainly a toe-tapper. Ricci makes his mark with the harp and is as good as always, and the guitar has a classic 60s sound. Interestingly, Blackwood is the home of Bluesdoodles! The real benefit of Dai’s approach begins to show on the second track, Fractured Man. This is a great track from the first note: the bass and guitar make the song stand out their way they play different patterns and then harmonise…brilliant. Then we get a cleverly discordant solo. My Favourite Colour (Green) starts like a Stray Cats song but is all Glas with another inventive guitar solo to add more colour(!). The Sky Turned Red, Pt 1 has harp backing the drums and bass nicely before the harp solo. However, it is the Hendrix references in the lyrics which confuse as suddenly we get a Shadows like drum rolling leading us to an excellent bit of slide guitar. Keep On Running has another brilliant bass line and the slide, which has a tonality of its own, and gives such a unique sound to two delightful solos… I could listen to a whole album of that slide. Ascending and descending, atonal chords introduce You Make Me Mad. This has a fairly basic origin to it, but the guitar and harp solos make it sound fresh somehow. Translucent Love has a rapid-fire country backing and, imagine this: Hank Marvin plays country…the guitar solo is like that, and it’s a good one, courtesy of Mr. Kirchen. Revenge Freak keeps the pace fast as the strumming gives way to a tongue twister chorus…I doubt that will work as a live audience participation bit lads! The guitar solo is equally frantic and then we get (oh bliss) a short bass solo that sounds great. Other Half summons up images of film noir of old in its make up, but again the complexity of the backing from just three guys is phenomenal. That glorious slide reappears too to make a disparate song fit in delightfully. A bass rattles into the next song, Something Wrong With the War. It actually reminds in its approach and feel (not the notes) of the greatest Welsh band of all time…Budgie, who was also a three-piece). This reminds me of their version of Baby Please Don’t Go. Final track is The Sky Turned Red, Pt 2… which is not just a rehash of Pt.1 although the lyrics are: this time it is a hint of funk, with two spacey guitar solos over a thudding bass. One complaint: the fade fades too soon.
So what you get from this trio is blues, rock, country and R’n’B in a non-standard format. The tracks are imaginative, rather than derivative and the quality of playing from all three is of a very high standard. I think that, if they continue to develop their songwriting skills, whilst keeping their novel approach, the next album will be even better. You will enjoy this album although the first track will probably be played less than the rest, and Fractured Man will go on regular repeat. Well worth a listen as it is better than a hell of a lot of ‘established’ acts out there.
Dai John: bass, vocals
James Oliver: guitar
Sam Andrews: drums
Jason Ricci: harmonica
Bill Kirchen: guitar solo on Translucent Love.