Monday, October 17, 2016

Blues Arcadia - Blues Arcadia EP

If variety is the spice of life then Blues Arcadia have managed to pack plenty of flavour into this self-titled mini-album.  Hailing all the way from Brisbane, Australia, they’ve produced a remarkably assured debut for a band only formed at the start of 2016.
They kick things off with the intriguing, restrained  ‘Corner Girls’.  It’s smoky and swaying, with jazzy ripples and chimes of piano over a halting rhythm, while the husky tinge to Alan Boyle’s voice adds a plaintive quality to lyrics about the seamier side of life.  The overall effect, with its vague air of chanson, conjures up the mood vividly.
Blues Arcadia - bonzer debut
Pic courtesy of Paul Troeger
They return to ballad mode later, with ‘Here Comes The Rain’.  It’s spare and delicate, with a pinging guitar solo from Chris Harvey, while Boyle begins to extends himself on vocals.  It’s something he does more of, and impressively so, on ‘Time And Again’, which opens slowly in a late night “the piano has been drinking” vein before building to a rousing crescendo.
Elsewhere they deliver some measured funk on ‘Take The Money’, with its novel, shuffling rhythm.  The song grows through swelling backing vocals and horns, there’s good interplay between Harvey on guitar and Parmis Rose on keys, and the syncopation from drummer Steve Robin adds some impressive icing to the cake.  If you like Ian Siegal in, say, ‘Brandy Balloon’ mode, then you’ll like this – and probably also ‘Operator Please’, which may be slight by comparison but still dishes up a strong chorus.
‘Miss Lonely’ offers a more old-fashioned, twitchingly danceable Sixties soul vibe, with Robin again shifting through the gears on drums to give the tune a dynamic feel.  But that’s just a down payment for the album closer ‘Rockin’ Chair’, a piece of stomping soul that puts me in mind of Wilson Pickett waiting till the midnight hour, and suggests this may well be the strongest suit in their already strong hand.

What we have here is some damn good songwriting across a range of styles, allied to some quality musicianship from all concerned.  Here and there I could do with the production delivering more oomph – that crescendo on ‘Time And Again’ could be more rousing still, for example.  And while their versatility is a strength, they may benefit from focusing more on a signature sounds to provide the spine for a full-length outing.  But overall Blues Arcadia have produced a confident calling card with this EP.  I’m betting they can underline their credentials when they come to paint on a broader canvas.

The Blues Arcadia EP will be released in November.

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