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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Reviews: Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Picturebooks, Little Villains, Gatekeeper (Matt & Paul H)

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Signs (Fantasy Records)

If any band can be considered a family it's Tedeschi Trucks Band, the 12 piece is made up of a conglomerate of Susan Tedeschi and her husband Derek Trucks' solo bands, they all consider themselves to be one big circus of blues and Americana, even going as far as bringing their own families on tour with them. Signs is the latest entry in the band formed after the Allman Brothers (of which Trucks was a member) started to wind down and then parted ways. It's an album that is now tinged with sadness as on the day of it's release keyboardist and flautist Kofi Burbridge died at the age of 57, it's also an album that deals with death itself as Derek was still dealing with not only the loss of Gregg Allman while writing but the tragic passing of his uncle and Allman Brothers bandmate Butch Trucks.

Trucks himself has said that the album puts him in a particular mindset and has some raw nerves, however not to be too flippant about it but tragedy makes the blues blossom and hear it makes a beautiful bouquet of American roots music that is a tribute to Butch, Gregg and Kofi, who's keys/hammonds/Fender rhodes etc are so integral to the rhythms of the band. They bubble in the background with the rhythm section (including two drummers) shuffle, swing and rock away with the brass section filling in the gaps. Guitar aficionados know how good Trucks is as guitarist by Tedeschi is no slouch either and her voice is brilliantly soulful and earthy augmented by harmony vocal trio for the record.

As if 12 members wasn't enough there are some guests here with former Allman members Warren Haynes and Marc Quiñones along with noted musicians such as Oliver Wood and Doyle Bramhall II. The band have yet to fail, making a triumph out of tragedy, Signs is up there with their Grammy winning debut, a magnificent record that marks the first time I've been brave enough to review one of their albums for this blog, buy this and seek out the back catalog you'll thank me. 9/10

The Picturebooks: The Hands Of Time (Century Media)

Fynn Grabke (vocals, guitar) and Philipp Mirtschink (drums) make up The Picturebooks, their percussive brand of fuzzy heavy blues rock stunned me when they supported Clutch last year, they had been touring for a long time when I saw them, having traversed the globe with their previous two albums they returned to the studio to record The Hands Of Time an album that they say "is about accepting and celebrating nothing but the truth, the ups and downs of life, the tears and laughter and the deep friendship between the two band members". It's that friendship that makes them so much of a force, they are fully in unison when they play with Fynn attacking his guitar for strutting riffs while Philipp uses a myriad of to beat the heck out of.

On this album though they've elected to add some wider instrumentation to this record with chiming piano thumping in the background, they've also created some hand made percussion instruments to giver a bigger scope to their sound and it's the tubular bells and chains that stand out with the latter adding a blues/gospel feel to Like My World Explodes and the doomy The Day The Thunder Arrived but it's the mix of genres here that makes the band so interesting, they are deep in the American traditions of blues/soul/folk/country, there's a steam train shuffle on the title track, country picking on Howling Wolf, chugging riffs on Electric Nights and a definite Morricone vibe on Rain.

The entire album brings to mind the stories of outlaw troubadours fighting against the grain they've even enlisted the husky vocals of Chrissie Hynde for the spiritual sounding You Can't Let Go. The Hands Of Time will hopefully see the band touring again but they've concentrated on the sonics of this album so it's a s close to their thundering live sound as possible, it's an experiment that has yielded fruit. 8/10

Little Villains: Philthy Lies (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Paul H]

On first listen, this is merely a rampaging half hour of punchy rock and roll fueled by a punk attitude. And then you listen to some of the more firecracker tunes contained in this little gem and think, I recognise that drumming style. Yes, this is Little Villains, the outfit that featured the ferocious talent of late Motörhead drummer Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor along with James Childs (Avon, Airbus) and Owen Street of desert rockers Waxy and sludge unit Vails. Now with Chris Fielden behind the kit, the band sought permission from Taylor’s family before moving towards a release later this month. If nothing else, this album demonstrates that Philthy’s explosive drum techniques remained intact many years after his departure from Lemmy & co. However, this is an enjoyable and thumping blast, fast and furious and whilst attention will inevitably focus on the drumming, the rest of the chaos is just as good.

In between songs, the live recording of the interplay between the band is hysterical, such as the moment after the blistering Traitor finishes, with Taylor exclaiming that his kick pedal has “been fucked”. The rawness recalls early Motörhead recordings with the 100mph drumming of I Am Dying reminiscent of ‘Philthy Animal’ at his best. Recorded at Unit A Studios in Palm Springs, California in February 2007, James has recently carefully carved the record's sound to maximum justice from the original tapes. Hopefully this will come without the confusion that accompanied Leader Of Down’s 2018 release and can be accepted as a final record of one of rock’s finest drummers in a band that I hope will continue to go from strength to strength. 7/10

Gatekeeper: Grey Maiden EP (Cruz Del Sur Music) [Paul H]

Totally left scratching my head by this one. This is the fourth EP release by the Canadian five-piece, who have been in existence since 2009 when they were started initially as a solo project by guitarist Geoff Black. They finally released their debut album East Of The Sun in 2018 and have followed it up with this. A four-track release, the opening two songs are relatively standard epic heavy metal style fantasy and mythology in the Manowar vein, one of which I understand appeared originally on a 2013 release. Nothing special whatsoever, but inoffensive and nothing to get too vexed about. And then we get to Moss. An acoustic bard style piece, it is without doubt one of the worst songs I have ever heard in my life.

Awful vocals, a whining guitar and effects that sound like nails on a blackboard. It is astonishingly bad. Completing the EP is a faithful cover of Richard III, by Tredegar, the band formed by Ray Phillips and Tony Bourge after they left Budgie. I say faithful, because there really is little else to say about it apart from Jean Pierre Abboud’s vocals once again are astonishingly bad. The original is a million times better. I’d not heard of Gatekeeper before I received Grey Maiden to review, I hope I never hear them again. Avoid. 2/10

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