Album review: JULIAN SAS – Bound To Roll

Julian Sas

Cavalier Recordings

Voted best blues-rock guitarist in the Benelux countries by the influential Dutch Guitarist magazine, the key to any Julian SAS CD is his tasteful, fluid soling, an array of wholesome tones and his ability to transform any given arrangement to his own end. ‘Bound To Roll’ fits the template perfectly as Julian plays to his strengths, as a tasteful, consummate guitarist with a delicate touch and a deep tone.

It’s ironic then, that in spite of the locker full of licks the most telling moment on the album comes in between the intense solo work, on the stripped down acoustic /harp arrangement of ‘I Ain’t Backing Down’. It’s a poignant song that could be interpreted as a metaphor for a flourishing career in his home territory, but one that has yet to crack either the UK or America. The song casts him as a focussed person with a bigger vision and to that end he’s trying to making something even better than his last chart album ‘Wandering Between Worlds’.

The songs on ‘Bound To Roll’ are mostly vehicles for his guitar playing, but the album impresses simply because of the Julian’s ability to find enough interesting ways to showcase his talent.

He dives straight into the organ layered, radio friendly opener ‘Life On The Line’. The Peter Green style wistful groove envelops you with its warmth and emotional presence. It’s also an emotional trigger that unlocks best moments of an album full of a rich seam of solos. Julian also speaks to us through his tonal variety as on the slide-led, low down boogie of ‘Swamplands’, which cleverly contrasts his growled vocals with his shrill slide work.

‘Bound To Roll’ explores every facet of contemporary rock-blues and gives long time Sas fans exactly what they want to hear, while new fans can’t help but be impressed by his playing.  In many respects he’s a conduit for a genre that he was born to play.

He revels in core power trio interplay and additional keyboards to deliver controlled clipped wah-wah phrasing on ‘Mercy’, some high octane Michael Katon style boogie on the title track and a slide and six string combination underpinned by delicate percussion on the failed relationship song ‘How Could I Have Been So Blind’. These four songs alone showcase Julian’s innate ability to feel and evoke different moods as well as being able to rock out.

He knows just when to inject a shot of adrenalin as on Rory’s ‘Shadow Play’ and when to rock out as on the blistering solo of ‘Tear It Up’. Less successful is the lumbering version of Marriott’s ‘30 days In A Hole’, complete with buzzing bass, but enlivened by some deft wah-wah soloing. He completes a triumvirate of covers with a blistering slide led ‘Highway 61 Revisited’, which nails his rock blues style to mid-70’s era Johnny Winter.

There’s room enough for the slow fuse blues of ‘Burning Bridges’ with its double tracked guitar parts at the 2.20 minute mark over a tic-toc rhythm, before building an impressive emotive vibrato drenched solo.

The quality of the band’s interplay and Julian’s intense fretwork continue to mark out the Dutch guitar hero as special. Older fans will recognise the trademark fretwork and will relate to his narratives, whereas newbie’s will delight in discovering a classy rock-blues veteran who still has plenty to say and lots of licks to play. **** (4/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra


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