Album review: SAVOY BROWN – Songs From The Road

 

 

 

RUF Records [Release date 03.13]

They say if you stick around long enough your time will come. In truth, Savoy Brown have probably enjoyed at least three come backs in their 45 year career, but their last studio album ‘Voodoo Moon’ seemed to capture another upswing in their fortunes.

The self explanatory ‘Songs From The Road’ benefits from the recent strong material and also from the best Savoy Brown line-up since the mid-90′s when they featured Pete McMahon and Nathaniel Peterson on vocals.

Released by Ruf records as part of their ‘Song From The Road’ series, this CD/DVD double pack is a good summary of a mature, road hardened blues and boogie band. The sax playing vocalist Joe Whiting brings presence to the songs, where Kim’s own vocals were at best indifferent. The rock solid rhythm section of bass player Pat DeSalvo and the wonderfully named drummer Garnet Grimm, nail the grooves and push Kim to the limit as only a great rhythm section can.

 ‘Songs From The Road’, is a good reprise of the band’s career, including some of their best new material, even if they do disappointingly finish with 3 covers.  The workaday call and response of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ (from ‘Street Corner Talking’) , Muddy’s ‘Louisiana Blues’ (from the ‘Blue Matter’ album) are OK as encores, but ‘Little Red Rooster’, which comes from ‘The Blues Keep Me Holding On’ album, could have been dropped in favour of the title track.

Much like his late 60’s contemporary Stan Webb, Simmons remains an often overlooked major blues figure and without him the stadium blues-rock and boogie circuit might not have happened.

The early career material works surprisingly well, from the warm tone and gentle dynamics of ‘Looking In’ to the riff driven ‘Street Corner Talking’, complete with unison sax and guitar lines.  The show stopping ‘Hellbound Train’ is even better and features Kim on two explosive solos, in between Joe’s impressive vocal.

The band powers into the new stuff with the stop-time rock and roll of ‘She’s Got The Heat’. ‘Time Does Tell’ is arguably the best song on the album, all jangling guitars, strong vocals and poignant lyrics, with Kim adding fluid, unhurried guitar lines with a jazzy feel before returning to the riff. The song reflects a new maturity in both his playing and his song writing, while the swampy ‘Voodoo Room’  features an unlikely ‘hey hey hey’ refrain in the chorus, and segues into the heavy duty ‘Meet The Blues Head On’.

Such is the band’s apparent hunger to race into this third new song from ‘Voodoo Moon’ that you suspect they too recognise the substance of the new material. Unsurprisingly the other new song ‘Shockwaves’, is the best of the encores. It’s a beefy shuffle on which Joe perfectly enunciates the humorous lascivious lyrics

It’s rare for any band to last 45 years let alone still be creative, but this aptly titled live album is an excellent reminder of both Savoy Brown’s unbroken history and the high standards that Kim Simmons has set himself in the autumn of their career.

Kim plays with the kind of taste and finesse that might have been an anathema in early career fire, but he’s surrounded himself with an excellent band and film crew to celebrate the latest renaissance of his enduring Anglo American blues outfit. **** (4/5)

Review by Pete Feenstra


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