Monday, January 16, 2023

The 2:19 - We Will Get Through This

Back in 2021 Belfast band The 2:19 released their debut album Revelator, a collection of very satisfying, meat-and-two-veg blues originals that showed a bit of potential.  Their new album We Will Get Through This isn’t as good as that.  It’s better.  Much better.
Let me begin at the very end, with the title track.  After a mournful flutter of harmonica 'We Will Get Through This' opens with just voice and acoustic strumming, as singer Chris Chalmers gently lays out a message of personal reassurance and encouragement in response to a shared moment of doubt and fear.  An undertone of organ emerges, then some sensitive electric guitar
The 2:19 play musical chairs
remarks.  Then as the lyric grows in conviction, the band come in, but subtly. A female voice adds sighing backing vocals, alongside brushes of piano.  And gradually, as the lyric becomes more universal in intent, the song evolves into a marvellous, uplifting slice of soul – especially when that female voice, the property of guest singer Amy Montgomery, comes to the fore and counterpoints Chalmers’ own moans and groans.
‘We Will Get Through This’ makes for a bravura climax, no question about it.
But the really great thing is that it doesn’t stand in isolation.  The album builds to this peak from the start as The 2:19 go through the gears with confidence.  They grab things by the scruff of the neck with the opening ‘No Smoke No Fire’, all crunching staccato chords, steady thumping beat and declamatory vocal, plus an impressively barbed guitar solo from Paul Wilkinson, and they don’t let go.
They loosen up a bit on the likes of ‘Turn Out The Lights’, but in a good way. A twitching shuffle, it’s crying out for handclaps to underline its good-time feel and go with the on-the-money harp solo from Andrei.  ‘Best Suit’ goes back to their roots, a slice of straight-up blues, with the bass and drums laying out a toe-tapping groove, and some rinky-dink piano and slide guitar as garnishing for a brisk tale of crime and punishment.  ‘Hey Carolina’ suggests they’ve supped at a similar Southern well to Robert Jon & The Wreck, horns and all, while ‘The Reach’ shows that they can get funky too.  And as a livener before the finale, ‘Seven Wonders’ is a cheerful chunk of Frankie Miller-style R’n’B, replete with rootsy harp and slide, on which the hero’s global sight-seeing always ends up back with his bewitching baby.
These songs all make for solid, impressive foundations.  But along the way they also detonate the fierce, surging ‘Ready To Go’, a stand-out propelled by some serious tub-thumping from Monty Sneddon, throbbing bass from Marty Young, and some ripped out, resonant rhythm guitar from Ady Young, as the underpinning for Chalmers’ edgy, semi-distorted vocal and a knife-edge guitar solo, also this time from Ady Young.
And they continue to demonstrate their potential down the stretch.  ‘Radio Smiles’ is laid-back and soulful, well-suited to Chalmers’ rich voice, a story of drive-time radio listening as a vehicle for personal reflections, with mellow organ from guest ivory-finagler John McCullough (who adds excellent brush strokes throughout) and similarly subtle horns from Barry McCrudden and Linley Hamilton, the latter also furnishing a well-placed trumpet solo.  There’s some evocative word-smithing too, as in “an old song sweet enough to make a radio smile”, and if it’s a song that doesn’t hit the absolute heights, it’s still reaching for them.
‘Broken Harmony Blues’ is another matter though.  It’s a slow, sensitive duet, again featuring the alarmingly good Amy Montgomery, whose voice blends perfectly with Chalmers on a beautifully simple piano and voice arrangement that illustrates how less can be much, much more.
When I reviewed their debut album, I suggested The 2:19 had hinted at a spirit of adventure they hadn’t quite fulfilled.  On We Will Get Through This that spirit has flowered.  They’ve written some songs that stretch beyond the basic blues framework, been bold enough to bring in session musos to help them fully realise those songs, and been well-served by the engineering and mixing of Michael Mormecha.  Salutes and high fives all round folks – this is a damn good album.
We Will Get Through This is released on all major digital platforms on 23 January.

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