Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – A Stupendous follow-up. It may not seem quite as immediate as the phenomenal debut but repeated listenings will leave you in no doubt that stunning first album now has a stunning companion…listen and buy!
It is a year since the debut album by wife and husband duo, When Rivers Meet, burst onto the scene with the fabulous We Fly Free album. I said then that “this album defies the term ‘debut’, such is the professionalism, mature compositions and instrumental skills, you’d think they’d been doing this for ages…yet Grace and Aaron Bond have risen to wide attention from the first EPs
(Uprising and Innocence of Youth) to this tour de force. The music herein is a wonderful melange of 70s rock and blues from every era; the 20s through to the present day and, if you haven’t heard it yet, one listen to the outstanding opener, Did I Break The Law, will convince you…if not, Specsavers do hearing tests too!!”
From that you can take it I was very impressed by that first album and I am hoping the follow up will be getting an equally regular outing on my CD player…yes, CD (or vinyl; depends on packages available), I do not stream as I want my musicians of choice to earn as much money as possible, so that they can make more music, and WRM have.
They have released a new album: called Saving Grace, I assume it is the making of this music that saved her from the perils of the pandemic, because it is another collection of stunning blues based rock with an urgency, immediacy and a serious amount of talent from the pair and their (one man) band. Aaron says that they had a purpose: “Saving Grace has a more upbeat rock feeling than We Fly Free, we were very conscious when we started to record this album; that’s the direction that we wanted to move in, and it was exactly the kind of result that wanted to achieve. As well as being inspired by classic blues including John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, we also draw a lot of influence from classic rock bands that include Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, Cream, and Free. To emulate some of the feel or tone of these legendary blues pioneers and seminal rock bands is something that we strive to do, and hopefully people will hear that in our music and relate to it.”
So, have they achieved their aims and have I got another gem in my collection? If you are sitting comfortably, let us begin.
Opening track, Can’t Fight This Feeling, has lyrics that will resonate set to a stop/start heavy riff and delicious vocals before they join together on a classic and classic rock song. The bridge is equally delicious with the “hmm’s” and then a quality (short) guitar solo with very subtle phasing.
Never Coming Home keeps the word ‘classic’ at the forefront as the slide driven riff backing the vocals and the genius of playing mandolin with a bottleneck, endears this (and them) to me…the bass patterns are great too.
He’ll Drive You Crazy utilises another favourite stringed instrument of mine: the cigar box guitar always brings a raw, authentic feel. Until that is, it’s overrun by a strong heavy rock riff that gentles down to a vocal passage that engages. Then, unless I’m listening to Kennedy Experience or Ed Alleyne Johnson, I forget how an electrified violin can add some serious gravitas to heavy rock…Graces’ playing does that. I also love the humorous “sorry what was that bit again” spoken moment towards the end. Next is the ballad…or than maybe should be the ballad.
Don’t Tell Me Goodbye is slow and moody with gentle strummed guitar behind the heartbreaking lyrical performance. Aaron harmonises and takes lead on the second verse… it verges on country, especially during the harmonies, but because it is rooted in reality, it doesn’t cloy. With Do You Remember My Name? we are back in a happier place as the beauty of the slide mandolin returns and is a delight as it lights up the basic heavy blues rock guitar riff. This has an immediacy and a catchiness that will stay forever and the increase in tempo towards the close is clever and effective. Have No Doubt About It is about truly believing in someone and, when it’s backed by a gentle bluesy guitar, bass and drums with more proof that a violin can make a real and meaningful contribution to blues rock…and, after listening to Grace’s emotive vocals, you will believe too.
The next track is a continuation of a track from We Fly Free…Eye Of A Hurricane (Friend Of Mine Pt. 2) That song was a stunner: so is this one, but very different. Aaron takes lead vocal instead of Grace who instead adds her gorgeous tone to the chorus and contributes another haunting violin solo. We still get delicious slide but with more electric guitar backing than part one, and a fascinating rhythm from the drums (as well as a reminder of days gone by as the lyrics talk of rewinding a video tape…ask your dad!) Atmospheric, shiver inducing and superb are the only way to describe this absorbing song.
The violin reappears in Testify: except this one is what WRM call a “banger”. It’s a true blues rock of the British variety with r ’n’ b touches in the chord play and the short violin solo makes a very suitable lead instrument the way it is amplified and, of course, played. The middle section is destined for audience participation with its clapping and potential sing-a-long-ness. Next up is a traditional blues structured and swampy, slidey slice of loveliness. Shoot The Breeze only has one fault…a sub three minute running time. Lost & Found is more slinky slide on a great song about survival over a heavy Zeppelin-esque riff but with more subtlety…controversial perhaps but listen to the slide extensions to the basic riff and it shows how to embellish without blowing it. The slide solo (with bass solo) behind it is genius, remarkable and remarkably good if woefully short.
Talking In My Sleep is an acoustic oasis as Grace and Aaron harmonise in a gentle track of beauty that’s all about the words and their deep meaning that will probably mean something different to each listener, but rest assured it will resonate aurally and emotionally with everyone.
When I first listened to the final track, Make A Grown Man Cry, I could not work out how they’d tracked the drums; I couldn’t imagine even Pro Tools having a program like that…a bit of research later and I found how they did it. The band assure us that “they were tracked on a wooden platform about 30 feet up, in an old Oak tree. Pretty wild, hey? You can even hear the birds singing at the very start of the song.” Wild indeed, but it certainly gives them a different voice to back up the low, loose stringed guitar and bass riff that close the album with a heavy rock track that has a bite that hangs on long after the (criminally short) two and a half minute duration.
So, they have achieved their aims and I have another gem in my collection and, tellingly, when I play the two albums together, but on shuffle, they fit seamlessly…a great achievement and a great album.
Grace Bond – Vocals, Mandolin, Violin
Aaron Bond – Vocal, Guitar
Adam Bowers – Bass, Drums, Keys, Trumpet
Engineered, Produced, Mixed by Adam Bowers
Mastered by Mike Curtis
Recorded in Boathouse Studio, Suffolk
APRIL & MAY 2022 HEADLINE TOUR with special guest Troy Redfern
TICKETS ON GENERAL SALE FRIDAY 10TH SEPTEMBER
THE GIG CARTEL AND SEE TICKETS
(iTunes gave me another happy time with We Fly Free before a quick bite of White Lion and then the obscure 1969 trippy rock of White Noise and the not so dark or scary as it sounds Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell…bonkers drumming and weird sound effects with screaming (of course) and, well, that’s about it. But then it was ’69!)