Rebecca Downes – More Sinner Than Saint

More Sinner Than Saint Cover

Rebecca Downes – More Sinner Than Saint
Mad Hat Records
Release Date: 24/05/2019
Running time: 59:33
Review by Paul Monkhouse
10/10

The Midlands has always been a hotbed for musical talent. When you consider that the area saw the birth of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Magnum amongst world beating others, you can now add another name to that prestigious list: Wolverhampton based Rebecca Downes. Whilst she has been solidly touring with the likes of The Quireboys and (the aforementioned) Magnum and putting out great albums, this latest should see her most definitely promoted to the big league. “More Sinner Than Saint” mixes her blues rock styling with a hefty dose of AOR and this potent brew of balls and soul is so well written and produced that it stands head and shoulders above most of the releases this year.

‘Take Me Higher’ opens the album and immediately impresses with its huge sound and epic scope. The insistent guitar gives way to Downes rich vocals and swirling keys, leading to an absolutely hook filled chorus that will have you singing it for days. This is all covered in the sort of gloss that the very best of the classic 80’s rock songs boasted and is equally memorable. It should be pointed out though that this is not just an exercise in nostalgia but very much a modern album that will appeal to a wide audience due to the quality of the whole package, not just the echoes of the past. ‘Chains Fall Down’ impresses with its aching vocals, great playing by the assembled musicians and its superb, slowly building structure and ‘Screaming Your Name’ is incredibly passionate, a world-beating track dripping with real soul but eschewing any overwrought guitar soloing that so often plagues other big rock ballads.

Rocker ‘Hurts’ lets loose and is full of ballsy grit, revealing the more primeval rock ‘n’ roll side of Downes and co-writer and guitarist Steve Birkett whilst Magnum main man Tony Clarkin returns the favour of Downes appearing on their recent live album to play some beautifully fluid guest guitar on ‘Breathe Out’. Already a fan favourite live, ‘Wave Them Goodbye’ sees multi-instrumentalist Birkett not only play some great slide guitar but unleash his impressive vocal chops in this, the albums only duet. Whilst it is Downes name on the cover, her musical partnership with him is the key to their success as they complement each other in the same way that Jagger and Richards and Plant and Page mastered, the perfect combination of singer and guitarist and this chemistry is perfectly highlighted on the album.

The titular ‘More Sinner Than Saint’ is all you could want it to be, starting with a church organ this is upbeat song laced with dark lyrics captures something halfway between Fleetwood Mac and Heart in its big sound and delivery. King King’s Alan Nimmo guests on ‘If I Go to Sleep’ and it’s another, harder rocking tune that stomps its size 11’s all over you and mixes sweet female vocals with rougher male ones. Nimmo’s solo sounds huge and the fact that Downes and Birkett can call upon him and Clarkin to guest on this release speaks volumes and new Magnum keys player Rick Benton plays throughout, all adding their own magic to the recordings whilst not putting anyone in the shade. Here, the music is the thing and egos are left at the door.

‘Stand on My Feet’ transports you to the Deep South, swaying in the summer heat whilst the landscape shimmers and chrome glistens under a beating sun. For anyone who fell in love with Alannah Myles first album, there is so much to enjoy here and this track brings to mind that magnificent debut, all southern sensuality, road trips to New Orleans and long, cold beers. ‘Big Sky’ ups the tempo again from the languid pacing of the previous track and has a real bite and groove and the sort of production that Mutt Lange gave Def Leppard, Shania Twain et al. The album continues in such a strong vein and finishes with ‘In Reverse’ which features an absolutely sky-scraping vocal from Downes and the hugely powerful ‘With Me’. This closing track is probably the most affecting one of the album and ends it on an emotional high, a song of promise, hope and protection that is so intensely emotional that you may well find yourself with a tear in your eye at the end of it. All the very best music should move us is one way or another and in ‘With Me’ you have a classic love song that never falls into clichéd moments but genuinely touches the soul and shows that you don’t have to be loud to be powerful, eschewing bluster for genuine heart. In “More Sinner Than Saint” Rebecca Downes has made not just the album of her career so far but one that will stand the test of time as a genuine classic. Without any doubt, one of the finest releases this year.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Take Me Higher
02. Chains Fall Down
03. Screaming Your Name
04. Hurts
05. Breathe Out
06. Wave Them Goodbye
07. More Sinner Than Saint
08. If I Go To Sleep
09. Stand On My Feet
10. Big Sky
11. In Reverse
12. With Me

LINKS:
https://www.rebeccadownes.com/
https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaDownes/

https://www.instagram.com/rebeccadownesuk/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5lTgFnkkf5YMEy9v2p_WFQ

 

Rebecca Downes Pic

 

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Jared James Nichols – The Waterfront, Norwich, UK – 16/07/2019

01 JJ Nichols (Top)

Jared James Nichols
The Waterfront, Norwich, UK
16/07/2019
Review by Paul Monkhouse

Jared James Nichols has built up a solid reputation as one of the leading lights in modern blues rock, his firey gumbo of influences winning the hearts of audiences during tours with Glenn Hughes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, UFO, Saxon, Blue Oyster Cult and ZZ Top amongst others. It speaks a lot about the guitarist that he not only held his own against such legendary artists but gave them all a run for their money and on many nights blew away the headliners. His latest tour of the UK is part of a diverse triple band line-up that also includes Toby Jepson’s 70’s style hard rocking Wayward Sons and the topped-billed game-changers Living Colour. Despite the huge talent on show, Nichols opening set was the one that left the most lasting impression and brought the largest number of converts, all of whom stunned by the power of this three-piece.

Despite the early start time, a sizeable crowd was already pushing against the barrier as a siren rang out and Nichols strolled onto the stage, ripping into opening song ‘Last Chance’. This was rock ‘n’ roll as dirty and loud as you could have wished for, the muscular playing reminiscent of Cream at their most forceful but with an edge that spoke of years spent playing in rough bars all over small towns in the States. There was a real ferocity here that screamed to be let loose, all whilst being totally controlled by a band who knew exactly what they were doing. This juxtaposition of the feral and the crafted in their performance was such a fine balance that it equally thrilled and amazed, the adrenaline rush of being strapped into a turbocharged supercar driven by a Nascar champion.

‘Don’t Be Scared’ was a blistering display of heavy blues and saw Nichols flicking his guitar lead to slam and dance across the strings as he played the solo. This wasn’t the only extraordinary thing that struck about the performance as it was impossible not to marvel at how he played with such dexterity and heaviness without a pick, his right hand wrenching and dancing on the frets bereft of a plectrum to take the strain across the tight wound steel strings of his beloved Les Paul. The funky ‘Honey Forgive Me’ dripped with a raw passion and ‘End of Time’ rode along with a loping rhythm whilst conjuring a sound that brought to mind something akin to Jimi Hendrix jamming with Led Zeppelin.

02 JJ Nichols (Middle)

The heads-down boogie of ‘Baby Can You Feel It’ really swung as bass player Ronnie Elvis James and drummer Dennis Holms were watertight, James a study in trucker cool whilst Holms was a mass of flying blonde hair. Nichols himself cuts an imposing figure, standing well over six feet tall and all muscles, tattoos and hair and it’s one of these tattoos that catches the eye: a curled snake on his left arm. Whilst a first glance looking like the one Metallica had on the cover of the ‘Black Album’, this was actually part of the Gadsden Flag, depicting a coiled rattlesnake ready to strike and such it was with the jabs and controlled ferocity of his playing on new single ‘Nails in the Coffin’. The track opened to the sound of rolling thunder and rain and continued in this vein, a brooding and atmospheric track full of dread and dark power, providing an appetite whetting taster of things to come.

‘Hardwired’ may have shared a title with the San Francisco thrash giants but this was purely titular as the track came over as the love child of Whitesnake and Ted Nugent, all lascivious guitar work and macho strutting but none the worse for either. Closing the set was a staggering cover of Mountain’s classic ‘Mississippi Queen’, replete with the greatest cowbell playing in rock outside of ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ and a freshness that captured the vitality of the original but turned up several notches. Closing with such a well-known and much-loved song was a gamble but the fact that their own material can stand shoulder to shoulder and not feel out of place with it speaks volumes. The future, seemingly, belongs to him. All hail the new King of Blues Rock.

LINKS:
https://www.facebook.com/Jaredjamesnichols/

https://www.instagram.com/jaredjamesnichols/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzbfeZRfm79klg5WCSlUWXw

03 JJ Nichols (Bottom)

 

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

 

Samantha Fish – The Junction, Cambridge – 13/05/2019

00 Samantha Fish Poster

Samantha Fish
The Junction, Cambridge
13/05/2019
Review by Paul Monkhouse
Photo by Laurence Harvey

Let’s just start by saying this: Samantha Fish is one of THE BEST guitarists you will ever see. Currently touring Europe, she has both the musical chops and the material to put on a real masterclass with her unique brand of country infused blues rock that is, by turns, seductive and eviscerating. Backed by a formidably tight three-piece band, she blew away the packed audience in a display of ferocious virtuosity showing that not only is Blues alive but just as vibrant and relevant today as it ever has been.

‘American Dream’ opens the set with a real swagger and kicks things off supremely, a template for the thrills to come. This was no warming gently into the show but a full-blooded leap into her world, the delightfully twisting rhythm of the song and fantastic vocal intonation of the chorus immediately drawing the crowd in. Whilst the band propel the groove, Fish is full of effortless cool and unleashes the first of many slide solos that highlight her deft touch and feel. Never someone to get complacent, there is a real shift in style to next number, the title track from the 2017 album ‘Chills and Fever’. With a delightful retro sound, it’s a much more jazzy/soul number that has a swing and style more akin musically and vocally to the late Amy Winehouse. With its terrific keys solo by Phil Breen, the song shows how Fish isn’t afraid to grow naturally and infuse her material with some of the best elements of 20th and 21st century music. In fact, it’s lazy to label her as ‘just a Blues artist’ because she is so much more than that and shows a really unique blend of different styles whilst at the same time very much having her own unique identity.

‘Wild Heart’ adds another twist with its galloping and insistent riff, the song rocking along as the passionate vocals power over the top of it. Fish looks utterly consumed by the music as a curl of blonde hair falls over her eyes whilst she rips into her guitar, her whole body lost in the glorious sound. ‘You Can’t Go’ wasn’t so much an instruction as an impossibility, transfixed as the audience were by the four musicians onstage and featured yet another outstanding solo whilst the more mellow ‘Hello Stranger’ cooled the pace once more with its soulfulness. ‘Cow Town’ was introduced with the tongue in cheek “for all you Hillbillies out there” and featured a much more ‘country’ twang to the vocals. Breen was again given the platform to shine as individual solos by both keys and guitar took the spotlight and highlighted the superior calibre of musicianship, each member of the band a master of their craft.

The first of two newly released singles, ‘Watch It Die’ is an incredibly catchy taster from forthcoming album ‘Kill or Be Kind’, propelled along by a pedal to the floor riff that is unpinned by bass player Chris Alexander and drummer Scotty Graves who lock in to provide a rock-solid base whilst adding their own style and panache. Coming over like a heavier version of prime late 70’s Fleetwood Mac, it transported the Monday night Cambridge crowd to the widescreen vistas of desert highways of Mid-West America, speeding along in an open top Pontiac GTO, a testament to the songwriting flair and an evocation of Fish’s Kansas roots. Further capturing the spirit of America, ‘Little Baby’ was an exercise in joyful rockabilly that saw the band having as much of a ball as the audience, it’s lyrics of longing and regret juxtaposed with the upbeat bounce of the music. Once more, the rhythm section of Alexander and Graves shone as they drove the beat along, the live version ramping up the fire of the original recording.

The slow, soulful country blues of ‘Go Home’ provided a much-needed breather and showed how Fish could shine equally as well with an acoustic guitar as electric, delicately plucking at the strings as her plaintive voice soared. A truly beautiful number, the vocal harmonies lifted it even further into the realms of the angelic and there was a hushed awe as if the slightest noise could break the spell. Following that with another tender number would have proven impossible so ‘Gone For Good’ was a rocking, raging storm of bottleneck slide guitar masterstroke, sandwiched as it was between the ballad and the second of the new releases ‘Love Letters’. Again, it can’t be overstated that Samantha Fish is not only an incredible player but a superb songwriter too and the track is both slinky and seductive whilst being instantly memorable therefore making it a perfect single to release.

A phenomenal ‘Somebody’s Always Trying’ is an exercise of swing that strips the sound to a pulsating, mellow soundscape, its breakdown building to an extended solo that really is a highlight of the night as the guitar sighs and screams before heading back into the chorus to finish the song. Rounding off the set, ‘Shake Em On Down’ was a perfect slice of down and dirty blues, the four-string cigar box guitar adding exactly the right level of authenticity and grit as the song slides along with the smoothness and slightly rough edge of a good bourbon. Of course, the crowd weren’t going to let the band just go without an encore and their chants and claps were rewarded as, to a huge roar, the four musicians strolled back on stage. Ripping into the heavy-duty rocker ‘Bitch On The Run’, it’s snotty, snarling attitude and irresistible chorus squeezed ever last drop of energy out of the audience and left them empty before saying a final goodnight. A barnstorming showstopper in every sense of the word, it was the perfect end to a perfect evening and one that those lucky enough to be there will be talking about for years to come.

Absolutely incredible.

LINKS:

Samantha Fish


https://www.facebook.com/samanthafishmusic/

https://www.instagram.com/samanthafishmusic/

 

01 Samantha Fish by Laurence Harvey

 

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Photo reproduced here with kind permission of Laurence Harvey

 

Dirty Thrills – Heavy Living

Heavy Living Cover

Dirty Thrills – Heavy Living

Running time 45:00

Released on 15-09-2017 via Frontiers Music srl

8/10 – Review by Vikkie “Queen of Rock” Richmond

It’s no secret that blues rockers Dirty Thrills have long since been a favourite of mine; I found them through twitter some time back and have followed their journey with interest.  Most noted for front man Louis James’ trademark soaring vocals and bassist Aaron Plows’ gurning, bendy performances on stage, the Thrills’ could be described as a modern-day Led Zeppelin.  However, they have a style all of their own so I was interested to hear this, their second full length offering.

Opening track “I’ll Be With You” kicks off with a heavy bass line and a dirty riff, with James’ vocals slinking in.  This is instant gratification if you’re a fan of bands such as Rival Sons, Deep Purple et al, but don’t think for a minute that Dirty Thrills don’t have a unique sound – this track gave me goosebumps when I first heard it.

“Go Slow” has a similar, almost seedy feel to it but features some epic vocals and sweet riffs, not to mention some pretty cool harmonica work.

From the slow and sexy tempo of “Hanging Around” to the thoughtful and rather lovely “Lonely Soul” and the semi instrumental interlude of, well, “Interlude”, this album exudes a smutty charm that is rarely seen these days. If I had a physical LP, it would be smouldering in my hands. From the big, big sounds of “The Brave” and back to picking up the pace with the very vocal “Rabbit Hole”, this does have something for everyone, although I can’t help but make comparisons with bands such as Rival Sons.  It’s inevitable, the style is comparable and these days, it is hard to be completely individual or ground breaking.

So, basically what we have here is a triumphant third release for the London quartet.  There is certainly evidence of a maturing sound, although I am surprised that “No Resolve” is featured again, having made its debut on the eponymously titled first album; perhaps it’s because it’s probably one of their most recognisable tracks as well as being a great song.

Dirty Thrills are clearly in their ascendancy; with a plethora of live shows under their collective belts, including very successful slots at this year’s Ramblin’ Man and Camden Rocks Festivals, the slow burn is starting to flare into something altogether more hot and out of control.  I say best of luck to them – they’re perky, hard-working chaps who deserve their break.

Dirty Thrills band pic

 

Track List –

  • I’ll Be With You
  • Go Slow
  • Law Man
  • Hanging Around
  • Lonely Soul
  • No Resolve
  • Interlude
  • The Brave
  • Rabbit Hole
  • Drunk Words
  • Get Loose

Stand out tracks:  Go Slow, Drunk Words, Get Loose

Links –

 

Disclaimer:  This review is the sole property of Vikkie Richmond and Ever Metal.  It is strictly forbidden to reproduce any part of this review, unless you have the explicit permission of both parties; failure to comply will be treated as plagiarism and reported to the relevant authorities.