Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Robert Jon & The Wreck - Wreckage Vol.2

New album Wreckage Vol.2 from Robert Jon & The Wreck is a quasi-live album, mixing together some in concert recordings, live-in-session studio stuff, and a couple of new studio recordings.  But really, that’s not important.  What is important though, is that this collection underlines the fact that Robert Jon & The Wreck are a three-dimensional animal.  Slapping a simple label on them is plain lazy, because this is a band who come at you from a variety of different angles, and make a damn good job of all of ‘em.
For one thing, they can rock the foundations when they want, as on the opening couple of tracks, ‘She’s A Fighter’ and ‘Waiting For Your Man’.  The opening ‘ . . . Fighter’ is urgent, neck-
Robert Jon & The Wreck develop new guitar playing styles
Pic by Phil Honley

snapping fare, led by huge, ringing chords, gambolling piano and floor-shaking organ.  It’s a big sound, and I mean BIG, over which Robert Jon Burrison hollers with a voice built for mustering a cattle drive, while Henry James lets rip with a zippy guitar solo.  And when they’re done with that, they find another gear and slam their foot to the floor on ‘Waiting For Your Man’, Andrew Espantman’s drums rattling along like a runaway train, Warren Murrel’s bass not so much bubbling as frothing, while Burrison and James lead the way with some nerve-jangling guitar.  And later on, in case you’ve forgotten they can rock, they get their heads down in no-nonsense fashion on the helter-skelter bash of ‘ On The Run’.  Get ready for clattering drums, surging slide guitar, rollicking barrelhouse piano and a wig-out guitar solo.  Oh yeah, and a breathless call-and-response chorus.
But the tail end of the album reveals them in more sophisticated rocking mode, with ‘Cannonball’ and ‘Witchcraft’ both stretching to around the ten-minute mark.  The former is an instrumental that kicks off with crunking guitar chords and waves of organ, leading into a harmonised guitar theme.  There’s a change of gear into a sharp, ascending riff, and then James is off and away on a sizzling guitar solo, later matched by a surging, gutsy organ solo from Steve Maggiora.  Some of this carries echoes of big epics by the Allman Brothers Band from Fillmore East, like ‘You Don’t Love Me’ or ‘In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed’, but this comes with more focus and structure than a jam band exploration – and hey, that works for me, guys’n’gals!
The same goes for the closing ‘Witchcraft’, another big thematic affair, juxtaposing harmonised guitar figures and chiming piano over swinging, churning drums’n’bass.  A fizzing, squealing James solo spins back into the main theme, which then rolls into a jazzy piano solo from Maggiora.  Then the bridge lets them switch direction into a more psychedelic segment full of Morse Code guitar and fluttering keys.  The Wreck, I have to tell you, have this kinda thing nailed.
But before getting to these epics, they take a turn down a different avenue with new songs ‘Old Hotel Room’ and ‘Dark Roses’.  The first is a subdued, plaintive, weary-on-the-road song, with a touch of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ in its guitar break and some typically good harmonies.  The second is essentially a country ballad, with weeping slide licks and a tasteful balancing of piano and organ to go with its big chorus.  Neither of these tracks is really my cup of tea, but that’s not to say they’re not done well.  More to my liking is the short’n’sweet ‘Something To Remember Me By’, on which the Wreck take a different tack, and get good and funky.
And then there’s their cover of ‘The Weight’.  Now this is the kind of thing that might sometimes have me asking “What’s the point?”.  However, while they may not do anything radical with it, they absolutely do it justice, staking a claim to The Band’s blending of American folk tradition and rock’n’roll with an impressive lightness of touch.  More of this kind of thing, Wreckers!
Wreckage Vol.2 may be lashed together from a variety of sources, but it’s still quality stuff, and Robert Jon & The Wreck are the real deal.  And that’s the only label that really matters.
Wreckage Vol.2
 is released by KTBA Records on 30 September, and can be ordered here.

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