Thursday, April 2, 2015

Balkun Brothers, ReDrova

Listening to Paul Jones’ Radio 2 show a couple of weeks ago, I got an earful of something interesting enough to make me go in search of it online.  So here we have, hailing from that Blues heartland of, er, Connecticut, the Balkun Brothers.  Formed by brothers Steve Balkun (guitar/vocals) and Nick Balkun (drums/vocals), and now joined by Caleb Battersby on bass and vocals, they’ve previously released a few EPs, and apparently won a clutch of blues awards in the States.  But this is their debut album, and it’s well worth a listen.
Steve Balkun and Caleb Battersby - they like hats
Opener ‘Oh Yeah! (Last Jam)’ crashes in with a wall of guitar, as a prelude to a lurching, sub-Zeppelin riff, over which Steve Balkun (I assume) lays a vocal that’s more Selwyn Birchwood than Robert Plant, before they underpin a wailing guitar solo with a bass-heavy, drum-pounding foundation that vaguely recalls Sabbath of all people.  The following title track, contrastingly, is something of a Southern blues-rock affair.
So far, so okay, but it’s not what I was anticipating.  ‘Got My Boots On’, though, delivers the goods.  A gorgeously shuffling piece of delta blues, with slide guitar well to the fore, it steers proceedings in more of a North Mississippi Allstars direction, which is all to the good.  And there’s more of it to come.  If ‘Keep Me Warm’ lives up to its monicker, with a lazy, rolling groove, the wonderfully titled ‘Search For The Arachnid’ offers a simple but original blend of a breezy riff, pattering drums, and squealing slide interventions, plus – what is that? – a tuba solo?!
‘Bippidee Bop’ is slower, built around a stuttering riff and rhythm leading up to another outburst of slide guitar, while ‘Keep It Up’ freshens things up with some gypsy jazz leanings, and excellent bass from Battersby.  Ordinarily, I have to say, I run for cover at the first hint of Django Reinhardt, but as it progresses this takes on an appealing jump blues feel.
‘Sally’s Blues’ is a satisfying turn at a slow blues, with piano tinkling in the background, and featuring the best, most bluesy vocal, before Steve Balkun turns up the heat with a dynamic solo.  From there they slither and boogie down the Delta again, all the way to the closing ‘Going Home’, which evokes NMA in ‘Shake ‘Em On Down’ mode, interspersed with a bit of a Native American vibe, and a burst of motorbike revving, as evidenced on this brief promo video.

The Balkun Brothers website declares that they mix traditional styles of delta and electric blues, with heavy modern rock and funk grooves”.  On this evidence, when they dial down the heavy modern rock, they’re a force to be reckoned with – and Steve Balkun could be a breath-of-fresh-air guitar hero.

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