Friday, April 12, 2024

Big Wolf Band - Rebel's Journey

Do you like a good riff?  I like a good riff.  And the good news is that there’s a little corker on ‘Empire And A Prayer’, the opening track on Rebel’s Journey.  It’s bright and breezy and enhanced by piano, the bedrock of a cracking tune that also features nice bass playing through the verses by Mick Jeynes, a neat tumbling turnaround at the end of the chorus, and a well-suited, sharp and tidy guitar solo from main man Jonathan Earp.  Verily, it’s a tune that obeys the law that you should hit the ground running – though it doesn’t half come to a sudden stop.
Some other strong tracks later in the album suggest that Earp and pals have spent a fair bit of time listening to Joe Bonamassa, and have learned a lot about his style of bluesy epic.  ‘Black
Big Bad Wolf Jonathan Earp leads the pack
Dog Blues’ is the first example, a sturdy mid-paced blues with crunching chords and a twiddly riff – to use a technical expression.  Earp’s adds some razor-like lead guitar filigrees, and it’s his solo that signals the epic turn, along with some flurries of organ from Robin Fox, who then joins with Earp in a guitar/organ call and response passage that recalls the guitar and vocal ping pong of Blackmore and Gillan – clichéd perhaps, but I like it all the same. Oh yeah, and it’s one of numerous examples of excellent backing vocals from Zoe Green.
If anything ‘Standing In The Rain’ is even better, Earp’s piercing guitar intro setting the tone, backed up by delicate piano, and a good melody that Earp puts over well. The song features subtle dynamics, and a tasteful first solo of rising tension from Earp, while his second, biting effort ramps things up with some scurrying runs all the way to the rather unconvincing rumble of thunder that brings it to a close. And in case you didn’t get the message, they travel a similar dramatic road later on, with ‘Darker Side Of You’, a satisfying blues ballad with elegiac guitar and chocolate box piano.
There are some differently styled good things elsewhere among the thirteen tracks too, though I could live without the cowboy blues of ‘Valley Of The Kings’, even if the revolving riff is something of an earworm. ‘Six Strings Loaded’ is a rather better stab at something in this particular blues-rock vein, strewn with sharp guitar licks and with Tim Jones’ simple drumming carrying a punch.
‘Crazy Love’ is a bright little rocker full of fluttering organ and guitar, into which they chuck some dollops of funk, while Earp raps out the vocal with conviction, well backed up again by Zoe Green.  And to underline their funk credentials, ‘Just A Little Bit’ is a looser affair, mid-paced and with a good tune and feel, and Green including some sassy “Little bit, little bit of you yeah” lines to another excellent contribution.  Fox is on board with a tasty organ solo too,  Jeynes’ bass bubbles along nicely, and Earp kicks in with a spot-on guitar solo.
I feel like the mix could give more prominence to the rhythm section, including Justin Johnson's rhythm guitar at times, but it’s not a critical issue. And if some songs are a bit more lightweight they’re all still well delivered, whether it’s the upbeat and positive ‘Rise Together’, or the taut and uptempo blues-rocker ‘Living On Borrowed Time', with its squealing guitar and surges of organ backing.
They close with a melodic rock plea for peace in ‘Too Many Times’, a groan of despair about the human cost of war that sports elegantly tinkling piano, swirling organ fills, and excellent guitar tone from Earp on his lead playing.  It kind of fizzles out though, slightly in want of a fresh idea to finish it off.
Rebel’s Journey is an enjoyable album, though I do wish some fat had been trimmed from those 13 tracks to give it a tighter focus.  But hey, that riff on ‘Empire And A Prayer’ will get you to stick around and make your own mind up.
Rebel’s Journey is released on 19 April, and can be ordered here.

No comments:

Post a Comment