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Sunday 16 September 2018

Reviews: Doyle Bramhall II, Kingcrow, Smoking Martha, In Which It Burns (Reviews By Matt & Paul H]

Doyle Bramhall II: Shades (Provogue)

Making his debut for the Provogue Shades is the follow up to his 2016 album Rich Man which was his first solo album in 15 years. He's been busy in that time though spending his time as the sideman for Roger Waters, Elton John, Gregg Allman, Allen Toussaint and T-Bone Burnett. More significantly, Bramhall he has also spent over a decade as Eric Clapton’s musical right-hand man and close collaborator. A noted singer, musician and producer Bramhall brings a lot of former employer into this solo record, so much of this record is in the same groove driven looseness of old Slowhand, the man himself even contributes to Everything You Need which is brilliant track that has master and student in perfect unison, sparse, wah powered, gospel union.

It's not all Clapton though, Hammer Ring takes the Southern blues of The Allman's, with the closing statement Going Going Gone featuring Tedeschi Trucks Band adding the Southern soul style. Searching For Love is a smouldering duet with Nora Jones where both of their voices intertwine as perfectly as the guitar and piano face off. Love And Pain has a fuzzy, garage rock of The Black Keys as does Live Forever. The unique guitar playing of Bramhall is incredible, there's no wonder he's so sought after by these big's names, it flows through him with a confidence that stems from natural unbridled talent, his vocals too are honeyed and filled with passion.

He's aided by bassist Chris Bruce, multi-instrumentalist/string arranger Adam Minkoff along with drummers Carla Azar and Abe Rounds, they are the sturdy backbone to expressive numbers such as the beautiful Break Apart To Mend and deal with all of the style variations on this record. With so many blues/etc guitarists trying to be the next Bonamassa, Trout etc Doyle Bramhall II is carving out his own legacy as a spectacularly gifted musician who has spent his career learning from the best. Pretty much a perfect album from an artist that finally seems happy in his own skin. 9/10

Kingcrow: The Persistence (The Laser's Edge)

Italian prog metal act Kingcrow knocked my socks off with previous album Eidos in 2015 so the anticipation was high for their next album. Finally it's come in the form of The Persistence the first album outside of the 'life' trilogy that concluded with Eidos and the band looked to broaden their horizons (not easy in prog) and move outside their comfort zone, having songs that retained the Kingcrow sound but moved it in a different direction. With their earlier records there was much heavier metallic sound, here it's lighter, more expressive, modern melodic soundscapes, think Dream Theater's Octavarium which was in tern inspired by Muse and U2.

Added to this I noticed some of the ambient textures that are used by Anathema and Steven Wilson, especially on the beautiful Drenched which is the first song on record, it's got a very modern prog riff at odds with the wistful piano, building into it's emotive hook of a chorus it's the first chance to rediscover the excellent vocals of Diego Marchesi he's got a brilliant range and adds a sense of urgency to Drenched but also a somber tone to Closer and the evocative Everything Goes built on the Cristian Della Polla's electronics and keys. If you listened to Eidos and you were expecting something similar then you won't get it on The Persistence it's a record of musical catharsis for the Italian band, unburdened by the conceptual nature of their previous albums they can play music that is cinematic, beguiling, uninhibited, contemporary and most of all majestic. If you liked them before then you'll embrace the change, if not then this is brilliant introduction to Kingcrow. 8/10

Smoking Martha: In Deep (Bad Reputation Records)

Aussie rockers Smoking Martha have signed a deal with Bad Reputation Records to finally get their debut album released in Europe and the UK. So what's it like? Well it's starts out with the steady groove of So Lonely which is a slow burning opening that shows off the sultry vocals of Tasha D, the whole album in fact is built around the smouldering sexy vocals of Tascha who sounds like a cross between Lzzy Hale, Maria Brink and Gwen Stefani, hollering and purring over the alternative rock riffs that Mick (guitar), Matty (bass) and Jordy (drums) lay down. From the jangling rock n roll of One Night, the walking AC/DC-like riffs of Follow, the bouncy What's Her Name, through to the acoustic sadness of Baby Let Me Go Smoking Martha display a breadth of styles and strong songwriting. Finally ready to be unleashed upon a UK audience the alternative rock of Smoking Martha is guaranteed to attract fans in the younger rock circles. 7/10

In Which It Burns: Beneath The Darkness Of Sky (Self Released) [Review By Paul H]

A tasty four track EP from Pembrokeshire groove merchants In Which It Burns comprising three original tracks and a brave cover. The band who are regulars on the South Wales circuit and who are well worth catching live. The Creed opens things up, a tight number which allows vocalist Wayne Mayhew to let rip with his strangulated roar fitting neatly alongside the lead guitar of Steve Flynn. 6341 threatens to tear a hole in the wall before the five-minute monster How Became The Rulers crashes the party. Solid, tight and well drilled, In Which It Burns even have the audacity to attempt Sepultura’s Roots as a finale. It’s a fine attempt, raw and boisterous. Much promise from a band who will hopefully get their big break in the coming months. 7/10

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