Ah, another North Eastern lad… I won’t wax lyrical about my youth in my homeland again. Suffice it to say that Sunderland, where Greg Coulson was born, will forever be the place where my nigh on waist length hair was shorn so that I could get a proper job! Coulson is a true multi-instrumentalist. He is accomplished on piano, Hammond, guitar, mandolin, ukulele and drums as well as a singer/songwriter…cue envy and despair at my lack of ability on just my precious Musicman! In 2010 Greg, at the tender age of 19, joined the legendary two-tone band The Selecter. That is not such a good omen from my point of view. Nor is the fact that in 2015, Greg landed a leading role in the West End production of, “Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined” at the Criterion Theatre. So, before I heard his true musical self, I was imagining a nightmare blend of easy listening with reggae and ska overtones…how wrong could I be? Easy answer, very wrong: Greg’s heart is very obviously in classic and classy Rhythm and Blues, and it is reflected admirably in every track on his new album, What’s New? But then anyone who cites Ray Charles, Booker T, Taj Mahal, Steely Dan and Little Feat amongst their inspirations, more than deserves a close listen. That effort will be rewarded with a blues leaning album, laced with rock, jazz, funk and even a little soul and pop to bring an enthralling mix of styles played by a band of great skill and energy.
It all starts with 10/10, a barrelling jive with a guitar pattern out of Les Paul’s own songbook, and a solo Chuck Berry would be proud of. It really takes you back (if you’re old enough) to the ice-cream parlours of youth. Girls change the tone as the Flatpack Horns join in. This is a modern R ‘n’ B song with the chorus giving it a touch of soul. The way Greg uses the Hammond so sparsely in support of the melody is brilliant as the key runs illuminate every phrase. The guitar also adds depth to a really clever track. Stitch Me Up drops the pace a little and brings us a soul-infused piece of such a complex composition… and yet it still sounds so straightforward and is another toe-tapper, until the dénouement, where it suggests it is about to end and then picks up again and delivers a keyboard solo which sounds a little Wurlitzer. Love Nest is my pick of the bunch, with a delightful guitar introduction. A distinct blues structure, with more subtle and intelligent guitars and the Hammond seductively washing across the background. The title track asks us What’s Next? This is Rock ‘n’ Roll the way it used to be, but with such a great modern feel and, when the Hammond solo cuts in, I cannot help think of times when the Animals were at their peak. Then a guitar solo, which is more akin to heavy rock, lifts it even higher. Someone To Be There immediately brings to mind the Kinks, but then it transforms into a song of such density with a Hammond swagger that makes this pure Coulson. End of the Line is the only track that is good but not outstanding. It has all the ingredients but doesn’t quite come together like the rest: Greg’s occasional Michael Jackson inflections don’t help. It still has the benefit of some great Hammond and guitar throughout. Ran Out and Ready starts a teeny bit like Inspector Gadget but quickly progresses into his trademark intricacy in the backing, phrasing and playing. Another brilliant staccato keys solo, followed by an empathetic guitar solo makes this a definite highlight…and nearly won ‘best of’ in my ears. Final track Sick Note; a funky soul song with the Horns to the fore is an infectious frolic. Stuart Dixon’s guitar solo is worth waiting for: the hammer offs and the clever use of discordant playing is pure quality.
So although this is not my usual true blue fare, it is infectious in its delivery and the instrumentation is first class. The whole band plays their part with just the right amount of emphasis and vigour. It may never set the world alight, but it is hugely enjoyable and I can imagine they would be superb live. In fact, see our very own Liz Aiken’s review of Greg at the recent HRH Blues festival and read why they are indeed even better in the live environment.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Stitch Me Up
- Love Nest
- What’s New?
- Someone To Be There
- End of the Line
- Ran Out and Ready
- Sick Note
Greg Coulson: Piano, Hammond, guitar, vocals
Stuart Dixon: Guitar
Adam Gammage: Drums
Roger Innis: Bass
Dani Wilde: Vocals
The Flatpack Horn Company (Stitch Me Up, Girls, Sick Note)
Produced by Stuart Dixon & Greg Coulson
Mixed By Stuart Dixon at Platform Studio
Music & Lyrics by Greg Coulson Except Track 3 Written By Greg Coulson/ Danny Connors and track 9 Written by Greg Coulson / Roger Inniss