Picture this, a day in December. On the bus to work at dark o’clock. Stick the earphones in, and give a first listen to an album sent to you by some band you’ve never heard of. And then - hold the phone. This is really, really good.
As album titles go, Blueberry Pie sounds too sweet to be wholesome. But don’t be fooled. This outing by the band formed by the wonderfully named Suzy Starlite and her other half Simon Campbell - a British Blues Award nominee in 2011 – is satisfying like a good malt whisky. It may be comforting, warm and familiar, but it also has depth and bite.
|"Aargh - the feedback, Suzy!" - the Starlite Campbell Band get down and dirty|
There’s a decidedly British Blues sensibility at work here, exploring a variety of different blues dimensions along the way. ‘You’re So Good For Me’ rides in on a crunch of fuzzy guitar, leading up to a zinging solo over swells of Hammond organ, and a teasing bridge to a solo by keyboard player Jonny Henderson – who’s a perfect foil for Campbell’s guitar from start to finish. But underpinning all of that there’s another hint of Sixties soul, in the vein of ‘Treat Her Right’ or ‘Mr Pitiful’.
A blast of harp from special guest Danny Boy Sanchez heralds a Chicago R&B angle to ‘Say What You Want’, but with sharp, original lyrics that give it an original twist: “Information is a bitter sweet fix / We used to wrap it in fish and chips”. ‘Cry Over You’ is a slowie with a piercing guitar intro that brings to mind Gary Moore in ballad mode, and interestingly staccato vocal phrasing that may indicate why Campbell’s Blues Award nomination was in the vocal department. His voice may not be earth-shattering or unique, but he knows what he’s about, evidenced by the pleasingly smoky quality he brings to ‘I Need A Light’, complementing the jazzy mood conjured up by Steve Gibson’s pattering drums and Suzy Starlite’s slinky bass.
The balance in the material is also demonstrated by excursions into Freddie King territory with the instrumental ‘Shimmy’, developing variations on a spiky guitar theme, and at the other extreme ‘Thrill You’, which is laid back blues in the manner of ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’, featuring another smoky vocal and a good organ solo and accompaniment from Gibson. ‘Empire’, meanwhile, is a driving and glossy take on R&B, with a fuzzy ascending riff and a stinging guitar solo.
The title track touches on Campbell’s acoustic blues interests, with nice vocal harmonies and a measured garnishing of slide, and Ms Starlite gets a featured vocal of her own on ‘Guilty’, to which Campbell adds another controlled, piercing guitar solo, perfectly fitted to the song.
Blueberry Pie isn’t ground-breaking, or wildly adventurous, but it knows where it’s coming from. It’s also fresh and modern, it’s witty and literate, it swings and it rocks, and it’s well-nigh perfectly executed. Hell, even the cover photograph is sparky. To paraphrase Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks, this Blueberry Pie is worth a stop.
Blueberry Pie is released by Supertone Records on 1 February 2017.