Thursday, April 11, 2019

Savoy Brown - City Night

Chunga-chunga-chunga-chunga.
That, folks, is the sound of the Savoy Brown rhythm section getting to work on the opening track of their new album, City Night.  Well, kinda.  I know, sounds a bit rubbish like that, doesn't it?  Still, I’d say it’s symptomatic of one element in the approach taken by veteran bluesman Kim Simmonds and his band.  It’s a simple formula, one that Simmonds has had ample opportunity to refine over a career in which this will be the fortieth album the band have notched up.  I reckon it probably goes something like this
Step 1 – Find The Groove.  That chunga-chunga thing on ‘Walking On Hot Stones’ – a King Kong-proportioned decendant of ‘The Red Rooster’ by way of ‘The Jean Genie’, perhaps - is just one example of bassist Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnet Grimm laying rock solid foundations for
Let Kim Simmonds Do What Kim Simmonds Does
a track.  As a rule, Grimm provides the anchor, with a metronomically consistent rhythm, and DeSalvo gives it flex and movement.  On some songs Simmonds may augment the riff by adding a layer of rhythm guitar, often fuzzed up, as on the voodoo boogie of ‘Conjure Rhythm’, or perhaps something more spiky to point up the cod-ska beat of ‘Payback Time’.  But the essentials of the groove are stoked up in the boiler room. And more often than not they will make you slaves, as they say, to the rhythm.
Step 2 – Words And Melody.  Conjure up some time-worn blues themes for Kim Simmonds to put his heart into, and let him groan his way through them in his inimitable style. His range is limited, and he couldn’t perform vocal pyrotechnics if his life depended on it, but the Tony Joe White matter-of-factness of his delivery develops a mantra-like quality.
Step 3 – Let Kim Simmonds Do What Kim Simmonds Does.  Which is to say, weave glittering threads of guitar lines out of the pentatonic scale.  Savoy Brown’s arrangements leave Simmonds the room to inject patient bluesy licks between the lines.  The word “shred” does not belong in this environment.  Does Kim Simmonds leave you salivating, astonished, over some staggering switchback of a guitar solo?  No, I don’t think he does.  Does he uncover new horizons in the way that his contemporary Peter Green did? No, but then does Peter Green do that nowadays?  Does he deliver a succession of licks, fills, breaks and solos that tickle your blues consciousness?  That, I think, is what Kim Simmonds does.
City Night is a different kind of album from its predecessor. The 2017 release Witchy Feeling had a haunting sensibility about it, that groove really plunging into Zen-like Tony Joe White territory.  This latest effort has more upbeat moments.  More invitations to shake your butt.  More energy.  This doesn’t make it better, you understand, just different.  While the likes of ‘Selfish World’ offer a classic, reflective slow blues, you also get something like ‘Hang Tough’, which bends, twists, and pumps up a Bo Diddley riff to create something fresh.
Kim Simmonds has been carrying the Savoy Brown banner for 50 years.  Fifty feckin’ years!  The sound he and his band create continues to celebrate and recreate the spirit of the British Blues Explosion.  It may not be earth-shattering, it may not be innovative.  But City Night sure as hell deserves you giving it a listen.

City Night is released by Quarto Valley Records on 7 June.

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