Sand & Stone, the fourth album by the Chris Bevington Organisation (including the first pair under the monicker of Chris Bevington & Friends), picks up where its excellent 2018 predecessor Cut And Run left off. Opening track ‘It’s True’ is ushered in by a horn riff and stinging guitar chords, over a thumping beat. It’s catchy, Scott Ralph’s singing is complemented by silky backing vocals from Kate Robertson and Sarah Miller, and it’s rounded out by a squawking sax solo from guest Chris Aldridge, and some ripping lead guitar courtesy of Jim Kirkpatrick.
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Meanwhile acoustic guitar, and harp from Ralph, kick off the tipsy old-fashioned blues of ‘What Did I Drink Last Night’ against a backdrop of bar-room chatter, with Kirkpatrick adding a suitably woozy slide solo to go with chasers of sax. The closing 'Sand And Stone' takes another different tack, exploring a work song vibe but applies it to the coal mines of Britain rather than the cotton fields of the South. Moaning harp and anthemic vocal harmonies lead the way into the song, joined by simple chiming guitar and a drumbeat like a pickaxe, before Kirkpatrick applies the coup de grace with subtle slide guitar.
But if these tunes broaden the Organisation’s range, the spine of the 11-track album is still swinging, rocking blues, whether it’s the strutting funkiness of ‘Bad Bad Bad’, with stuttering horns from Ben Oakes on sax and Lewis Topping on trombone, ‘Deep River’ shifting from gutsy riff to a reliance on simple vocals and drums, or the funky R’n’B of the all-too-brief ‘I Got Time’. This last, with its rolling horns, swinging rhythm section, squealing guitar break, and echoes of Etta James’ ‘Blues Is My Business’ as resurrected by Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul, is a track they could, and really should, have taken further. And ‘Heaven Above’ is grindingly funky, with more harp to the fore from Ralph over a mid-paced swagger driven by McCallum’s tub-thumping drums, and Kirkpatrick contributing a wailing solo.
I don’t imagine Chris Bevington regards himself in any way as the leader of the Organisation that bears his name. But he deserves credit for being the catalyst for a band that brings a distinctively big sound to the British blues table, and is now mining a rich seam of original songs from Jim Kirkpatrick and Scott Ralph, who have combined to become an impressive writing and production team. Sand & Stone succeeds once again in taking a swinging blues style and giving it a modern freshness. Which is, y'know, kinda cool.
Sand & Stone is available on all the usual digital platforms and on the band’s own website, where it can be purchased in digital, CD and vinyl formats: www.chrisbevingtonorganisation.com.