Robert Jon & The Wreck latest album full of Southern Rock
I’ve been playing this album a lot – it’s one of those that you are happy to listen to when it starts playing again from the beginning – but, repetition aside, this already sounds to me like a classic collection, the sort that pushes a good band into the upper stratosphere, or should do, if there was any justice in the musical world (which is wishful thinking I suppose).
On paper, it all sounds easy, have a great singer fronting a tight band, write some really knock out songs, and make sure your producer makes your recording leap out of the speakers with sonic clarity and power. Sadly, this combination is not quite so easy to achieve (and it’s the songs that too often let the side down), but in this case, the band has pulled it off with aplomb. To be honest I’d never come across this bunch of musos from Orange County, California before hearing these cuts and I’m kicking myself even more for missing last year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair, due to a family holiday (sometimes you have to take one for the team), where the ‘Wreck made an appearance.
Seeing as this is their 5th album I’ve clearly come late to the party, but, better late than never (especially if you bring a bottle). Lead vocalist, and one of two guitarists, Robert Jon Burrison, has a superb voice; powerful and melodic, with a soulful edge. The reason why you prefer one type of vocalist over another is down to a personal preference based on a number of irrational factors that can probably never be explained. I personally can’t bear listening to a small number of blues guitarists that should stick to plank spanking rather than inflicting their painful growling on the public. In contrast, I could listen to Mr. Burrison all day long, singing the proverbial phone book. It makes all the difference.
The opening number “Oh Miss Carolina” is a superb song that will no doubt become a live staple and is a good way to introduce the rest of the album. Your attention is grabbed immediately with the descending guitar motif that introduces the song and the juicy bent notes on a guitar with a nice fat tone, bluesy as anything. Ten seconds of playing only but your ears are already standing to attention and the scene is set for the high-quality offering that follows. The chorus of repeated “Oh Miss Carolina” is huge, with superb backing vocals adding depth. The solo from lead guitarist Henry James Schneekluth is excellent, melodically raunchy and building to a great climax before the band takes it down for the final verse. Lovely!
The following track, “Work it Out” shows a different side to the band with dinky keyboards underpinning a soulful blast driven along by a strong horn section, a powerful vocal, and soul sister call and response backing vocals adding a gospel feel. “Can’t Stand it” has a jaunty, pounding beat and features gorgeous classic twin Allman Brothers style harmony guitar fills. These are also used to great effect on another killer track “Do You Remember”. The backing vocals are exceptional on this and elsewhere on the album, giving each track an added dimension and real power and energy in a way that I can’t think I’ve heard used to such good effect before on this type of music. It helps that the songs have great chorus hooks, “Tired of Drinking Alone” is another example. Some superb slide guitar on this track; the guitar playing is really strong throughout. There are no weak tracks on this collection.
The title tracks “Last Light on the Highway Pt1 & 2” close the album and are a brilliant tour de force. Pt1 starts quietly with a picked acoustic under the vocals, adds some sweet high harmonies and some strings before Pt2 kicks in, building to a climax with pounding chords, quieting down to allow some tinkling piano before the drums pick up the tempo and a growing string arrangement builds up again, leading to joint orchestral and guitar lines, a rocking final verse, pounding piano and dynamic upon dynamic flourish, complete with several false endings and sounding like a prog-rock band pulling out the stops. Simply brilliant! That’s how to finish an album folks, with a real flourish. “Last Light on The Highway” is easily going to be one of the albums of the year. I love it!
Bluesdoodles Rating: Stupendous – A MUST for your collection
- Oh Miss Carolina
- Work It Out
- Can’t Stand It
- Tired of Drinking Alone
- Do You Remember
- This Time Around
- Don’t Let Me Go
- One Last Time
- Last Light on the Highway Pt. 1
- Last Light on the Highway Pt. 2
All songs written by Robert Jon & The Wreck
Robert Jon and The Wreck are:-
Robert Jon Burrison (lead vocals and guitar)
Andrew Espantman (drums and background vocals)
Steve Maggiora (keyboards and background vocals)
Henry James (lead guitar and background vocals)
Warren Murrel (bass and background vocals)
Music & Lyrics by Robert Jon & The Wreck (Robert Jon Burrison, Andrew Espantman, Steve Maggiora, Henry James, & Warren Murrel
Produced by Robert Jon & The Wreck
Co-Produced by Jeff Frickman
Recorded and Mixed by Jeff Frickman at Sonic Groove Studio, Burbank, CA
Mastered by Mike Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone Studio, New York, NY
Additional Piano, Guitars and Percussion recorded at M.A.P.S. Studio, Fullerton, CA
B3 Recorded at Zion Studios, Santa Ana, CA
Vocals Recorded at Hybrid Studios, Santa Ana, CA
Horn Arrangement for “Work It Out” by 504 Horns, New Orleans
Additional Background Vocals recorded at Apple Street Studio, Berrima, New South Wales, Australia
Vocals by Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae, and Juanita Tippins
Strings for “Last Light on the Highway” recorded at Shuffle Brothers, Studios, Gallatin, TN
Strings Arrangement and Performance by Gideon Klien