Thursday, May 10, 2018

Andrew Robert Eustace - Stories

Andrew Robert Eustace ain’t exactly your archetypal blues moniker, is it?  Doesn’t really have the same ring as Blind Arkansas Joe, say.  Never mind, that hasn’t stopped Glasgow-based Eustace from producing an album of original songs that wanders down the Delta and up into the North Mississippi hill country with some conviction.
‘Can’t Wait For To See That’ makes for a positive start, with a gritty, swaying guitar motif over a thudding, metronomic kick drum, and periodic injections of more distorted guitar,
Andrew Robert Eustace racks his brain for that chord shape 
while Eustace’s croaking, growling vocal increasingly brings to mind Cedric Burnside.  The following ‘Broken Down And Beat’ adds a hint of shuffle to the stomp, and if the repetitive, hypnotic riff doesn’t quite capture the North Mississippi sound it’s not far enough.  The ker-chunking drive of ‘The Man’ has an air of one-man blues machine Steve Hill about it, in addition to the aforementioned Burnside, and catches the ear with another swinging, steely guitar solo.
At the other end of the spectrum Eustace conjures up a couple of acoustic outings to be proud of. The unaccompanied ‘Down In This Valley’ is melancholy and impressively spare, and with its convincing, aching vocal it’s the real deal.  Similarly the closing ‘Every Single Day’ drifts along nicely from its languid acoustic intro.  With Eustace’s low, reflective singing it evokes the image of a lone musician in an undecorated, dimly lit room, empty except for maybe an old fan stirring the air in the corner.
Stories has its limitations, to be sure.  That kick drum stomp features too often for my liking.  It works to good effect on the slow groove of ‘Bad Weather Blues’, which displays a good sense of dynamics and a neat layering of guitar lines as it works up to a satisfyingly chunky ending.  It also fits the bill on ‘Free Man’, where it’s the only accompaniment to some vocal lines, interspersed with an appealingly zippy riff, but its use in the middle eight is overdoing it.  And the tasteful Celtic leanings of the harmonised guitar lines on ‘Crooked Old Dog’ deserve something more imaginative to underpin the verse.
The haunting ‘Running Man’ is okay, but doesn’t reach the level of the standout acoustic offerings, and its lyric about having “killed a man and I don’t know how” is at risk of sounding inauthentic.  But hey, Johnny Cash knew squat about shooting a man just to watch him die, so let’s not get too precious.
There’s good musicianship at work here, and some quality songwriting, and if Eustace were to let drummer Michael McGee off the leash a bit it might have even more snap, crackle and pop.  As it is, backed up by McGee, and by Gordon Irvine on rhythm guitar and Craig Davies on bass, Andrew Robert Eustace has done himself justice with Stories. If you like your blues rootsy then have a mosey down the Mississipi – well, the Clyde – and give it a listen.

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