Southbound climb on their Rockin’ Horse

I always love to receive new band material, and like it a little more if they are British… in the knowledge that this sceptre’d isle has so much to offer the world of blues. One such band is the London based Southbound who have been together since they were fifteen. Their influences belie their tender (to me at least) age as they quote Derek and the Dominoes, the Allman Brothers, Humble Pie, Santana, Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter and Ry Cooder as the primary drivers of their sound. Not that they are a covers band or copy any particular one…indeed after 2016, self-titled, debut EP provided a taster of what was to come, they now have a full-length album on release, called Rockin’ Horse, that will surprise and delight most fans of those artists in the way they have embodied the old and brought their own reading of the genre to the table.

The first track will make you think you have mistakenly got hold of a Morricone soundtrack and you’ll expect Clint Eastwood to ride into, or out of, the sunset chewing on a cigar. The trumpet that heralds Rock Bottom conjures up that image before the band cut in with an Ash like intro and then the song builds slowly via some neat tom-tom work into a neat vehicle for Ford’s vocals while the band play complex and quiet backing…the guitar solo toward the end increases the Free feeling that begins after the snare section but then the trumpet returns and wraps it up the way it began. A surprising opener to those more used to track one being a faster, rockier song…nowt wrong with being different, though. Gotta Hold On Me starts with a slap style bass phrase before we get the band bringing a minor funk element into what could be Pie or Santana Mac (they do name check Black Magic Woman in the lyrics) before the exquisite acoustic guitar runs that punctuate. The solo though, is electric and, mercifully, the band stick with meaningful rather than too many notes…subtlety and feel are present and that makes both (too) short solos well worth the entry fee. Papercut is a faster blues-rock shuffle with the bass and drums playing a brilliant backing as the Marriott influences show a little in the melody. The middle section changes the pace and brings the bass/drum shuffle to the fore in a great way and then another picked, thoughtful and meaningful guitar solo lifts this to even greater heights. Pinstriped Suit is just brilliant…think Free’s Ride On A Pony but with delicious slide and a harp solo added. This is quality blues-rock as made in the early 70s and that is a very good thing. Georgia Peach starts with a piano intro and, for this ballad, Ford uses a higher register than previously and, fortunately, can carry it off along with the soulful side too. It is a bit too soul for me in a Hughes way and, although the playing is impeccable, this overstays its welcome at over six minutes…if you like heavy soul, however, then you will disagree. Four Leaf Clover moves back to slow blues with some ‘new’ touches as the guitar and cymbal interplay early on is beyond clever. The ‘pecked’ piano doesn’t add much however and becomes a little wearisome…but then the guitar solo cuts in and I no longer give a fig! It has the economy of notes and explores most of the neck in the way that evokes sensitivity rather than flashiness. When the piano returns with a solo it has a better tone than as a backing sound and (the sleeve doesn’t say who plays it) is actually entertaining and reminds me of PAL, as they used to do this kind of thing so well. The PAL feel continues on the title track but without Lord or Ashton (well, it makes sense to me!) or perhaps PAL doing the Allman Brothers version of the song of the same name. It is the kind of jazz/funk/blues melange that, when done well, is a delight…and this is done well. First Time Love is more of the slow blues with a big slice of soul in the melody. The slight disappointment of a return to this direction is dispelled by a lovely, well paced and thought out guitar solo…too short! Listed as Nothing But Time on my copy, the next track is actually The Deceiver…regardless, it has a funky slap bass and drum intro before the guitars lead into a mid-paced blues-rock song that has a delightful guitar phrase running between the soul tinged verses and a solo of quality. The real Nothing But Time is an acoustic driven song that has a balladic quality and is like something Ken Hensley would have come up with at the height of his solo powers…it is a lovely song that also provides some great electric inserts around the melody. Final track, Hurricane, starts off very Free and develops into a strong blues-rock song that has a lilt and majesty, helped by another quality, sensitive solo and the shrewd use of some nice female backing singers adding an almost gospel touch.

This then is an album that will be enjoyed by lovers of the more laid-back style of blues-rock. The soulful edge will also appeal to many and, whilst it isn’t my favourite style, this young band shows so much promise with their skilful playing and compositional skills that I look forward to their next album with anticipation and a personal hope that the Free, PAL and Pie flavours mature as the band surely must. Give this album a try: it is evidence of a group that will grow from this proficient start into a major talent on the British and world stages.

(As a footnote, I didn’t hit replay after the fourth or fifth run through of this fine album and iTunes in its alphabetical way went onto the next track, Jolene. Yes, the Dolly Parton song…but reimagined with a superb B3 driving it all and putting in a stunning solo in the middle too. The artist? Southern Soul Connection and well worth a listen.)

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

01. Rock Bottom

02. Gotta Hold On Me

03. Papercut

04. Pinstriped Suit

05. Georgia Peach

06. Four Leaf Clover

07. Rockin’ Horse

08. First Time Love

09. Nothing But Time

10. The Deceiver

11. Hurricane

Musicians:

Tom Ford – Lead vocals

Elliot Stout – Guitar

Jordan Carter – Guitar

Dan Collins – Bass

Aaron Virciglio – Drums

Produced by Steve Honest

Southbound climb on their Rockin’ Horse

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