The Sons of Liberty was a secret organisation, created in the American Colonies to advance the rights of colonists and to fight taxation by the British government. Err, no that’s not them…nor is this the Jon Schaffer (he of Iced Earth fame) fronted band of that name. (Although I think he is otherwise occupied at the moment, on bail following the Capitol storming in January!)
This fine collection of reprobates is Sons Of Liberty UK. (Use the UK tag at the end when searching to make it easier). If you haven’t come across them, they are a group of guys from Bristol and South Wales who were drawn together by a shared love of Southern Rock. Apparently, it all started during a trip to buy a used guitar… Andy Muse and Fred Hale were listening to southern rock music on the way and decided that they could and should take the music to the people of the UK as they felt that their genre was underserved by British musicians. The two guitarists sought out and recruited former Gillan man, Mick Underwood’s Glory Road vocalist Rob Cooksley. The rhythm section of drummer Steve Byrne and bassist Mark Thomas were soon on board too. All of that happened in 2014 and they’ve been touring to great acclaim ever since…until the dreaded lurgy curtailed everyone’s touring plans. Still after the compelling and rewarding Aged In Oak EP, we, at last, get a full album of British Southern Rock: entitled Aces & Eights, they’re back, with a dozen tracks that will lift (and help you imbibe) your spirits and belief in British music…even if it is Southern/Western, Southern-tinged Rock. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they out-Southern many Southern bands: they don’t pretend, they don’t regurgitate (the music at least!)…they just rock.
Opening with Ruby Starr, we get a bit of Acca Dacca as well as the South…but there is a refreshing edge and ‘Britishness’ to the sound that makes it even more individual: a sing-a-longable chorus, then a Priestly bridge before a pedalled solo that is well crafted and executed. Rob’s melodic screams bring tension and attention too. Don’t Hide Behind Your Weakness is a slower Southern tinged rocker; the picked riff is no less effective than power chords, and Rob is in full Nicky Moore voice (a high compliment) with some neat lyrical twists and the odd heavy “Hey” thrown in, plus a tasty, bendy solo.
Black Blizzard is a bluesy, rocky near ballad; a complex, excellent structure that the ‘named after a teacher band’ would like to get their hands on, I bet. One of my favourites is Beef Jerky Boogie…subtle(ish) amusing lyrically and rapid-fire musically, it has just about everything a good boogie needs. The twin guitar bridge is Ashy and lovely and the solos genius, if a bit short for me.
The next track is the lead single; Damaged Reputation has a great video to accompany the guys tootling around Bristol in prisoner outfits…just as the Bridewell Police Station riots erupted…great timing! Good song though with heavy riffing and another touch of Southern Priest before solos of brevity but of quality. Texas Hill Country isn’t as obvious as it sounds: Southern, yes but with a weight and gravitas that some from that very state need to pay attention to…neat solo too.
Fire And Gasoline probably wouldn’t work as Fire and Petrol, so we’ll stick with gasoline; Rob is certainly on fire with multi-tracked vocals…he’s has a helluva range. Heavy, riffy and more antipodean than Southern but still, they keep their identity and make it pure Sons. Doc’s Remedy is not like anything that’s gone before: imagine chaps (as in trousers) and horses and some ‘yee-ha’s added to an irresistible rhythm and some very clever lyrics…listen to them and you will be smiling even more; the slide solo is a treat too.
I Come In Peace is a ballad with bite and a message too. This will be magnificent live; be prepared to sing the throaty chorus with lighters aloft. The solo is a cracking one…could have been longer for me (surprise!) Dead Man’s Hand is bluesy, southern-ish with many layers as the twin guitars build the essence; listen to the right-hand channel for some really neat guitar as it is lower in the mix. The bridge is inspired and leads nicely to another (too short) quality solo and a bass phrase that isn’t long enough to be a solo…maybe it should have been. Lights Are On is another taste of the Sons take on Southern…yes it’s there, but it’s way heavier (pun intended)…British heavy rock combine with those Southern sensibilities, mix it up and make it …better.
The final track is Southern in the spelling but Whiskey Is My Vaccine is more a slow blues, done with taste and smiles aplenty: the vocals are amusing and Rob does a Tony Ashton brilliantly….including the belch. (If you don’t know what I mean listen to Tony singing the part of an inebriated newt (yes, really) on the Butterfly Ball.) The whole track is great from first note to last and listen out for the so very clever bass and drums behind the main riff…I am guessing the guys had a ball doing this lubricated or otherwise.
This is a great album without a duff (beer) track. It has passion, bite, fun and the occasional serious message, all supported by a talented and original band.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 doodle paws – a wonderful album of heavy British rock shot through with bourbon, grits and gravy! Well worth a listen and then a buy.
1. Ruby Starr
2. Don’t Hide Behind Your Weakness
3. Black Blizzard
4. Beef Jerky Boogie
5. Damaged Reputation
6. Texas Hill Country
7. Fire And Gasoline
8. Doc’s Remedy
9. I Come In Peace
10. Dead Man’s Hand
11. Lights Are On
12. Whiskey Is My Vaccine
Andy Muse: Guitars/Vocals
Rob Cooksley: Vocals/Harp
Fred Hale: Guitar
Mark Thomas: Bass/Vocals
Steve Byrne: Drums
Recorded in December 2020 at Momentum Studios: Producer Josiah J Manning
(iTunes ran on to the one album outfit that saw Dee Snider and the brilliant guitarist, Bernie Torme, join forces as Desperado. It was originally entitled Bloodied, But Unbowed on release in 1988, but made available widely in 2006 under the title Ace…the track delivered was the heavy, bluesy Emaheeval: fast and heavy with Clive Burr pounding the drums and Torme’s distinctive playing shining through.)