Sunday, July 19, 2020

Savoy Brown - Ain't Done Yet

CAUTION!  HARD HAT AREA!

Why?  Because you’re gonna need protective clothing to enjoy ‘All Gone Wrong’, the opening track on Savoy Brown’s latest album Ain’t Done Yet, that’s why.  Think sledgehammers.  Think steamrollers.  Think freight trains rumbling through the pitch-black night on hot rails to hell.  On ‘All Gone Wrong’ Savoy Brown lay down the meanest, dirtiest, heaviest riff this side of ZZ Top at their most badass.  It’s the foundation for a dystopian lyric about contemporary life, delivered by main man Kim Simmonds in a Deep South blues groan that’s entirely convincing despite him being a chirpy little fella from Caerphilly.  Oh yeah, and he also knocks out some squealing guitar licks by way of icing on the cake.  Talk about heavy blues – tie yourself onto something immovable, and turn this beast all the way up!

Savoy Brown - smile, and carry a lead-heavy riff
They repeat the earth-moving groove trick late in the album, on ‘Soho Girl’, with its heavy duty, fuzzin’n’buzzin’ riff underpinning the tale of the said female, who “Drives a ’67 Mustang, Sleeps with a gun”.  Which kind of begs the question about which Soho Simmonds is referring to, because this doesn’t sound like behaviour typical of Denmark Street in London.  But I digress.  It’s worth noting too, that Simmonds uncoils a swooping and stinging solo to celebrate the Soho girl.
They approach some other big grooves from different angles.  ‘Devil’s Highway’ feels cooler, with a precision-tooled rhythm from drummer Garnet Grimm over which Pat DeSalvo’s bass bubbles steadily, while Simmonds sprinkles glittering, fluid licks around like seeds in a breeze.  ‘Jaguar Car’ is taken more briskly, but still feels like it’s been handed down personally by John Lee Hooker even as it scoots down the highway at a fair old clip, with Simmonds contributes subtle harp embellishment, and adds racing stripes with his slide playing.  And the title track, an ode to the road, is an irresistible slide of good time boogie worthy of Quo in their prime, with a call and response chorus and Simmonds delivering lead guitar variations on a theme from start to finish.

Two of my favourite moments though, come when they ease off a bit from the hard stuff.  Both ‘River On The Rise’ and ‘Rocking In Louisiana’ have a laid-back vibe, laid over a semi-acoustic framework.  The former, with swooning slide guitar from Simmonds, belies the gloomy alarms and excursions of a lyric concerning flooding, and the latter, with its steely acoustic acoustic guitar and bursts of slide, is also a jangling jalopy of summertime blues that’s a damn sight breezier than any sweaty August day in the bayou.

But Savoy Brown can go downbeat too, as they prove on ‘Feel Like A Gypsy’, which has the hypnotic feel of latter-day Tony Joe White (RIP), with Simmonds dabbling in a Peter Green-ish guitar tone over rippling guitar picking and a rolling rhythm from Grimm and DeSalvo that’s like the sea lapping gently on a beach.  And the closing instrumental ‘Crying Guitar’ does exactly what it says on the box, Simmonds going on a journey around the pentatonic scale with a bravura display of crystal-clear tone, the Welsh wizard casting some powerful six-string spells.

With Garnet Grimm and Pat DeSalvo in tow, this is a well-honed edition of Savoy Brown that Kim Simmonds has on the road.  On this evidence, Ain’t Done Yet is damn right.

 

Ain’t Done Yet is released on Quarto Valley Records on 28 August.

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