Sunday, May 14, 2023

Jim Kirkpatrick - Dead Man Walking

Patience is a virtue, which is its own reward, so the saying goes.  But in the case of Jim Kirkpatrick’s new album Dead Man Walking, if you stick with it to the third track, ‘Razor’s Edge’, you’re rewarded with a doozy of a tune.  Opening with big ringing chords and piercing lead licks, it’s a moody mid-tempo animal that bursts into an epic chorus, replete with soaring backing vocals courtesy of Kirkpatrick himself, and is stacked with bouts of his excellent guitar soloing, full of trilling tones and changes of pace.
Not that the opening ‘Promised Land’ and the following title track are by any means poor songs.  The former is a classy little vignette, a part a cappella bluesy spiritual, and ‘Dead Man Walking’
Hope you hear that train a comin', Jim!
Pic by Jonathan Johnson
itself is a western-tinged affair redolent of ‘Bad Company’, say, that gets properly going when it crunches into the urgently voiced chorus, before a howling solo provides lift-off.  But our Jim is still getting warmed up here, for the eight cracking tunes that follow.
Whaddya get for your dough then?  Well, there’s some tough rocking with the Thunder-like ‘Life On The Run’ and the mountainous ‘Road Of Bones’ for starters.  ‘Life On The Run’ is a winner on the strength of its guttural, stuttering riff alone, but the melodic chorus, surging bridge and stiletto-like guitar break seal the deal.  Meanwhile ‘Road Of Bones’ is gutsy and atmospheric, built around some rocky mountain way-ish chords, with another splendid display of backing vocal prowess from Mr K, and a cracking, quick-quick-slow-quick-quick solo to get you working out on your imaginary fretboard.  Oh yeah, and ‘Union Train’ really delivers on the rootsy-rock promise of the title track; an American Civil War tale with fiddle from Clare ‘Fluff’ Smith mixed in with a gritty stop-start riff, it grows in power and really rocks.
‘Heaven Above’ and ‘Hold On’ are both good-time rockers, the former dirty and twitchy, with horns thrown into the fray, a grabber of a chorus, and Leon Cave going big on the skins to plough the road for another crunking Kirkpatrick solo, and the latter in a more swinging vein, with a gritty, Bad Co-like riff.
But Jim Kirkpatrick has more clubs in his bag than straight ahead rocking, as damn fine at that as he is.  So there’s more imaginative range on display in the melodic epic ‘The Journey Home’, with its twinkling opening and initially reflective vocals, building through ripples of guitar and dappled keyboards from Jem Davis till it breaks out like the sun emerging from behind the clouds to deliver an aspirational chorus.  And the closing track is an excellent take on Rory Gallagher’s ‘I Fall Apart’ that's absolutely a worthy homage to the Irish master.  With a yearning opening and prickling guitar, Kirkpatrick does a bang-up job on Rory’s clever vocal phrasing, and there’s even an air of ‘Stairway To Heaven’ as it unfolds, with strings swelling to add to the drama as the Jim fella really uncorks his guitar for the final act.
In Dead Man Walking and its 2020 predecessor Ballad Of A Prodigal Son Jim Kirkpatrick has produced a brace of albums that place him in the crème de la crème of British blues-rock.  The guy really should be given more attention than he already gets from his work elsewhere.  So get out there on the road with these two albums, Jimmy boy, and get the acclaim that you’re due!
Dead Man Walking is out now, and available here.

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