304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a wonderful album that crosses genres and delivers ten tracks to lose yourself in…repeated listens will bring new elements to the fore and expand the enjoyment.
It is very quickly forgotten when listening to the guitar playing of Keith Xander that he was born without a right arm below the elbow and plays his guitar using a prosthesis and hook with a pick attached. The sense of wonder at his dedication and overcoming adversity is always there, but the focus is on his undoubted ability to wring the tone and notes from his guitar. I don’t think of Jeff Healey as a blind guitarist, just a brilliant guitarist and the same is true of Keith. Plus, in various interviews with him over the years he refers to his hook as the source of the band name, Xander and the Peace Pirates, and I applaud and appreciate the humour.
Having dealt with that, the all important music this band are creating is a heady mix of blues, soul and rock. It began after they were ‘discovered’ on YouTube by Gibson guitars which led to their appearance at a multitude of events around the world and the achievement of being the resident band at The Cavern Club (that Liverpool club where some 60s band or other made their name!) plus tours in support of some major bands: Joe Bonamassa, Joe Satriani, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, The Temperance Movement, Bernie Marsden and even playing Old Trafford where, in my humble, they were better than the headline act.
The new album is the long-awaited follow up to the 2016 debut 11:11. The delay was, in part, due inevitably to the pandemic and all of the issues that threw up for recording and touring. As we (fingers crossed) begin the long haul out of these restrictions, the time is right for them to release the next chapter. The cover art is made up of twelve ‘yin-yang’ symbols and is based on Metatron’s Cube, a symbol of the Archangel Metatron (nothing to do with Transformers), and this fascinating symbolism underlies a lot of the emotive lyrics and music on their new album, Order Out Of Chaos, and rather neatly hints at the musical loveliness that lies within.
Opening with We Cry, if you’re new to the band, you will immediately grasp the bluesy soul that percolates through their music…deft guitar played without flash, just feel. Vocally strong as usual, this multi-layered song may remind some of Neil Young assuming he suddenly discovered how to hit a note! Ultimately it’s a great song that, after a neat little bridge, has some tasty guitar interplay for a (sadly) brief but lovely section. The closing riff has mostly indistinguishable talking over it before a famous atomic bomb soundbite.
Leave The Light On is pinned by a rolling drumbeat that has Kate Bush tones; the guitar intro will have you searching the memory banks (mine failed); the guitar solo will have you listening in awe and the whole is a gentle yet powerful and soulful song. Soul Sailing stays gentle and soulful with acoustic and slide guitar that brings a hint of country into the mix but when the wah’d guitar solo cuts through, albeit briefly, it becomes a significant and strong song.
I’m No Good At Being Bad has an acoustic and electric intro that builds tension and drama in line with the passionate vocals…the lyrics will resonate too. The very subtle and clever slide solo is an undoubted highlight of this and, indeed the whole album.
The title track, Order Out Of Chaos, is soft rock personified as the simple but effective drums and bass keep the song alive as the guitars glisten and the soulful vocals pour out the meaningful message. We have to wait until the outro for an interesting, short, guitar piece that fades too quickly. Into The Water is, for half of the song, a vocal and guitar piece of soulful, slightly bluesy motifs crafted rather beautifully into a song that you listen to with your partner laid on a sofa with a drink in hand and emotions to share. The next song,
Kiss Your Rain, has a title that makes me think…how?! Although it isn’t really explained, it is another of the softer rock numbers these guys excel at; a bit of a sing-a-long chorus and a nice section of chord work introducing another tasteful and short solo. Breathless employs that rolling drum pattern again as the intro goes all cinematic before developing into a curious blend of pop-rock and Western soundtrack…strange but effective and a great solo too. Fog may be only 147 seconds long but the slide running throughout makes it addictive.
The final track, Heart Stop, is a rock/pop melange that has bounce, subtlety and great lyrics with pure rock guitar soloing in the middle and an overall feel of 70s rock that would have appeared in the charts when that meant something.
Overall, this is an exquisitely crafted set that I keep mentally filing under ‘soft rock’…it is, but it’s also more than that. The blues, soul and rock elements are fused seamlessly and make for a quality listening experience.
Leave The Light On
I’m No Good At Being Bad
Order Out Of Chaos
Into The Water
Kiss Your Rain
Keith Xander (Lead Guitar / Vocals)
Stuart Xander (Guitars)
Mike Gay (Slide Guitar, Guitar / Vocals)
Joel Goldberg (Bass)
Adam Goldberg (Drums)
(iTunes delighted in the lower reaches of the alphabet and brought me some nice 80s rock from Y&T and moved further back to 60s blues from The Yardbirds.)