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Monday, 30 June 2014

Reviews: Jack White, Mostly Autumn, Royal Southern Brotherhood

Jack White: Lazaretto (Third Man Records)

So the Detroit musical madman returns with a second album of rootsy music harking back to his musical and geographical heritage. The first White solo album was an excuse for him to spread his wings and indulge in his love of rock, blues, folk and beyond it was different to his other works to be admired on it's own merit but retaining enough of his style to be beyond doubt it was his work. The first thing you notice about the record as Three Women (originally by Blind Willie McTell) kicks in is that it does seem more upbeat than it's predecessor with the Hammond (courtesy of former Mars Volta man Ikey Owens) driven funk of the first song gets you moving in your seat, before the gonzoid garage rock of the title track harks back to his first band, the pace changes again with Lillie Mae Rische's fiddle and country vocals bringing a southern longing to the album something that is revisited on Entitlement on which you can just hear the tumbleweed and smell the moonshine. As usual the White provides the vocals and most of the guitars with a huge cast of musicians helping him, the most notable of which is the returning Ruby Amanfu who appeared on the first album who is at her soulful best on Just One Drink. The fuzzy Highball Stepper is an instrumental that shows of Whites prowess and in the process brings to mind The Black Keys with it's explosive, fuzz fuelled guitars. Yes this isn't The White Stripes, the riffs from that band are not present, but what is present is a man who clearly is drawing from his inspirations in the Blues, Country and Folk, to create an album that is a myriad of styles and filled with the oddball, off-kilter delivery and lyricism and best of all he seems to be enjoying himself, a quality that is evident throughout the record. Old school, retro call it what you will this music never dies. Well done Mr White another cracker! 8/10

Mostly Autumn: Dressed In Voices (Mostly Autumn Records)

Mostly Autumn are now deep into their second phase with guitarist Bryan Josh and Keyboardist Iain Jennings now the only founding members (although Jennings has been in and out of the band) but they are still releasing high quality records with an ever revolving line up of musicians, (the latest change is the departure of drummer Gavin Griffiths who leaves to focus on Panic Room) Since Olivia Josh nee Sparnenn joined and vocals the band have become heavier with every record and yet again they get heavier with Dressed In Voices. Bryan Josh describes this album as a concept album about a murder that is made to live the life of the person he has killed, their past, present and future. So this is not a smiley record by any means and as Jennings' keys kick off the first track you can hear the ominous tones that foreshadow the rest of the album with the massive guitar parts driving the songs and Olivia's voice perfect for the light and shade when merged with her husbands, a rocky opener then before Jennings gets to bring you to your knees with his plaintive keys on Not Yours To Take which also has some heavyweight guitars from Bryan Joshj and Liam Davidson (also now left replaced by former guitarist Chris Johnson) as well as the pace driven by Andy Smith's bass. It is also a chance for Josh to show off his rich vocals that are part whispered part bellowed and merge perfectly with the sweet vocals of his wife. Running is probably the most Mostly Autumn song on the album with an emotional delivery and a soaring Gilmour like solo from Josh who has never shied away from his Pink Floyd influences, these get more prevalent after See You welcomes you to the dark middle section and Home has some seriously evil synth and when combined with Josh's almost menacing but yet emotive vocals it is all reminiscent of Pink Floyd's The Wall, as does The Library. The chills run down your spine on First Day At School on which is just vocals and piano for the most part until the final part moves into an explosive instrumental final section with Jennings, Josh and new drummer Alex Cromarthy driving the song into Jeff Wayne territory and the rock comes back with a vengeance on Down By The River which shows Josh in full Blackmore mode. despite the heaviness of this record the bands folk roots come through on Skin On Skin and The House On The Hill which features the whistle and bouzouki of Troy Donockley. Equally melancholic, uplifting, ominous and joyous Dressed In Voices is a modern day morality play that questions the nature of guilt while providing an amazing musical backing which ends with the MA classic ballad Box Of Tears which features former member Anne-Marie Helder on flute and vocals. A band that have always pushed themselves sonically have now created an album that sets them in great stead for the future, a heavy concept yes but it has made for a fantastic album. 9/10

Royal Southern Brotherhood: Heartsoulblood (Ruf Records)

Onto the second album and as Tiny Robinson said the train kept-a-rollin'. When a band is made of a Neville Brother and an Allman Brother you expect the best and this is what you get, classic blues, rock, soul, funk, country and jazz filling 12 tracks and leading to a hell of a ride fro blues fans, as they say on World Blues it runs through their veins and with the staccato riff and the slide guitar melody, you can agree but they don't limit themselves to one style, the ode to this music Rock And Roll sounds like the Eagles (Joe Walsh era) with a R&B backbeat. The band is based around the trio of Mike Zito's guitars, Devon Allmans' guitars and Cyrill Neville's percussion with Yonrico Scott's drums and Charlie Wooton's bass, filling in the gaps. Because of the dual percussion the albums have a definite element of funk drawing inspiration from Neville's own band see the smooth as silk Groove On and also features Neville's smoky vocal delivery and the almost tribal drums, the funky carries on with Here It Is and moves into Callous which sounds like a blues based version of Come Together by the Beatles with Wooton driving everything brilliantly. Zito's and Allman's guitars are awesome they compliment each other brilliantly and while Zito rocks, Allman has the blues touch of his uncle. Call it blues, call it blues rock call it whatever you want this second shot of rich, soulful, rootsy southern blues rock. A great second album from this so called supergroup, now a tour with Tedeschi Trucks Band calls...Please!!?? 8/10   

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