First the good news. Whenever Aaron Keylock gets a slide in his left mitt, some good things happen. So a song like ‘Down’ features a slithery slide riff, with a skipping drum pattern in the verses, and a nice slide solo, played with conviction. Similarly ‘Against The Grain’ kicks in with a tough and convincing slide-driven riff that hints at Page on ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, while the riff on ‘Sun’s Gonna Shine’ comes naturally, even if the rhythm plods a bit.
|Aaron Keylock - young boy blues|
Album closer ‘No Matter What The Cost’ suggests another string to Keylock’s bow, a dreamy sounding semi-acoustic number with a Stonesy feel that even hints at a Jagger-esque cod US twang. ‘Just One Question’ also passes muster, a slow and moody blues, with a tasteful intro from Keylock and some of the best production on the album, decorated by some neat details.
But here’s the rub. Over the piece, Cut Against The Grain suffers from weaknesses in the material, the vocals, and the production.
Several of the melodies are weak or predicable, but the dodgiest examples come towards the end of the album. ‘That’s Not Me’ may have an interesting drum rhythm and decent guitar solo, but there’s a Britpop feel to the rhythm guitar and the chorus, and the following ‘Try’ essentially seems like the same formula slowed down. ‘Spin The Bottle’ has some Strolling Bones style details, and a gritty middle eight, but again these are wrapped around a song that Noel Gallagher might have considered too lightweight for Oasis – though I will admit that the chorus is strangely catchy all the same, as is the case with ‘Against The Grain’.
Most of Keylock’s singing sounds ordinary at best, lacking depth and occasionally veering towards a thin and nasal quality, which may have worked for Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks but isn’t the best fit for blues rock. He’s better when things are bit slower and more laid back, but it’s an area that needs work.
The sound is noticeably dry and thin on songs such as ‘All The Right Moves’ and ‘That’s Not Me’, and generally it lacks punch, which doesn’t do much to compensate for the material.
AK is okay. He’s young and he’s got plenty time to develop. But the people looking after him need to nurture his talent rather better, because being a “teenage guitar sensation” isn’t enough. Bigger names than him need assistance in the writing department, so there’s no shame in looking for some. If he intends to continue singing then a vocal coach to help him as his voice matures would be a good investment. And next time around they should look for better value from his producer.
There are plenty of people who will tell Keylock how precocious he is. If they really want him to succeed, some people need to help him address the areas that need work.
Cut Against The Grain is released on Provogue on 20 January 2017.