This isn’t to suggest that Ballad Of A Prodigal Son is a flat-out guitar extravaganza – Kirkpatrick is too interested in producing good songs for that. But he sure leaves you in no doubt that he’s a fully qualified plank-spanker.
|Jim Kirkpatrick - he's got a guitar, and he's gonna play it
Guitar hero is not Kirkpatrick’s default mode however, as the material on Ballad Of A Prodigal Son demonstrates. ‘No Such Thing As A Sure Thing’ is a blues-infused rocker co-written with FM main man Steve Overland, with a rootsy intro of acoustic strumming and toots of harp that then gets sideswiped by a slamming riff. It’s gritty, catchy, and well-constructed, and yes, you’ll want that air guitar handy for it too. Meanwhile ‘Ain’t Going Down Alone’ is a mid-paced and moody affair that makes like something out of an early 80s Whitesnake songbook, and ‘Blue Heron Boulevard’ is an instrumental that sets Allman-like slide playing against sunshine-infused backing with a sheen reminiscent of Steely Dan. The closing ‘All You Need Is All You Have’ also offers something different, a patient chill-out tune that swells and rolls likes the tide starting to come in on a sunset beach, before mustering a dramatic interlude, and another epic solo from Kirkpatrick over a ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’-like vocal refrain.
The one dud song on offer, relatively speaking, is the rather thin and predictable ‘Skin & Bone’. But order is restored with the different blues facets evident in the following run of tracks. ‘Always On The Road’, a co-write with Bernie Marsden, is good time, singalonga rock’n’roll replete with horns, honky tonk piano and Neil Murray on bass, that nods heavily towards Chris Bevington Organisation territory. The following ’61 And 49’ is a tough and gutsy tale of the Clarksdale crossroads that’s appropriately stuffed with gritty slide, as well as some excellent, full-on backing vocals from Sarah Miller. Then ‘Talk To Me’ is a blues ballad, kept simple but sprinkled with tasteful blues licks and a fluid solo, before ‘Gravy Train’, written by Rick Parfitt and John ‘Rhino’ Edwards, is a neck-snapping boogie express with a stinging guitar refrain to counterpoint the crunching riff.
But really you could guess at the quality of all this from the opening title track. ‘Ballad Of A Prodigal Son’ features a snapping groove, a driving, stabbing riff, and strong vocals and harmonies typical of what follows. It also features a simple little turnaround that doesn’t half remind me of Rainbow’s ‘Sensitive To Light’ – not that the two songs are really alike, but that gives you a clue to what the album is all about. Call it blues rock, hard rock, or classic rock, call it what you will, Jim Kirkpatrick’s solo outing is a direct descendant of good stuff from days gone by, and it stands up pretty well in comparison.
So if you’re sitting there waiting with bated breath for the new Joe Bonamassa album, then stop it. Breathe. Relax. And get your order in for Ballad Of A Prodigal Son. You won’t be disappointed.
Ballad Of A Prodigal Son is released on 4 September, and can be ordered here: http://www.jimkirkpatrick.com/merch.