Sunday, February 28, 2021

Redfish - Songs From The Fire Station

Tick tock, time flies.  I’m two weeks beyond the release date with a review of this latest thang by north west of England/south west of Scotland band Redfish.  It’s worth the wait though.
Songs From The Fire Station is a four track EP of covers, recorded live at the Old Fire Station in Carlisle, effectively the home venue for the Redfish gang.  
The best moments come with the opening and closing tracks, ‘Meet Me In The Morning’ and ‘Use Me’, both of which display the kind of imagination that makes Redfish stand out from the blues herd.
The first, a Dylan song, is seven minutes worth of long distance travel from the semi-acoustic twanginess
Redfish turning blue
of the original.  The initial focus is on slinky Fender Rhodes piano from Fraser Clark and funky bass from Rod Mackay, garnished with sprinklings of bluesy licks Martin McDonald.  I sense that a lot of work has gone into giving this arrangement its soulful, jazzy, and relaxed vibe.  Clark’s piano solo eases and flutters its way across the octaves, before McDonald picks up the baton with a guitar solo that teases out and then releases the tension, while Sandy Sweetman’s drums tie things together in lazy, swinging fashion.
McDonald opens ‘Use Me’ with some Hendrix-homage wah-wah á la ‘Voodoo Chile’ which then melts into the soulful groove of the Bill Withers classic, over stuttering bass from Mackay.  Now and then everything drops away except pattering drums and the vocals of Stumblin’ Harris.  Now, Harris may not have the greatest voice in the world, but he does know how to use what he’s got, and he’s very good here, raising and lowering his voice and lending lots of character to the song.  There’s an interesting stuttering rhythm on the go underneath Clark’s piano, and they accelerate smoothly into a yowling wah-wah solo from McDonald, before downshifting again to bring plenty of dynamics to proceedings.  It’s a great song from Bill Withers in the place, and they do it justice.
In between, Hound Dog Taylor’s ‘Give Me Back My Wig’ and Jimmy Reed’s ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ may be less interesting, but they’re still entertaining live fare.  The former is high revving, slide-jangling blues, delivered with plenty of energy.  McDonald goes on a slide guitar toboggan ride, and Clark delivers a barrelhouse piano foray that keeps you hanging on the edge until takes a handbrake turn, and they fairly charge towards the buffers at the end.  ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ is more sturdy, mid-tempo boogie, with the ivories well-tinkled in a Johnnie Johnson stylee, and a warped-sounding guitar solo to add a different flavour.
All in all Songs From The Fire Station is good enough to make me wonder why they didn’t add a few more tracks and produce something more substantial than this tasty appetiser.  But less is sometimes more, and all that.  In any event, Redfish have followed up their album Souls with another demonstration that they’re not just yer typical 12 bar blues bashers.  And that shouldn’t really surprise me any more.

Songs From The Fire Station is available here.

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