Angel Air [Release date: 02.09.13]
Del Bromham is best known for his output with Stray. Hook-laden bluesy hard rock, Stray had their heyday in the mid-70’s. Despite some decent selling albums, mainstream success seemed to evade them. Bromham has kept the band going though, through various line-up changes, and they are still gigging today.
‘Nine Yards’ is the guitarist’s second solo venture. Like his first outing back in 2004, it is an album based in traditional blues. Unlike ‘Devil’s Highway’ which was a collection of covers, Bromham here has penned and recorded 14 tracks of his own. Together they showcase his all-round talent as singer, songwriter and performer. Not to mention his deep appreciation of the blues.
The album is commendably diverse in the styles and the moods offered up. Bromham indulges in acoustic, Memphis, blues-rock, country, boogie-woogie and others. What holds the collection together though, is the straightforward approach that Bromham has taken to celebrating the genre: simple chord structures, clean vocals and tight harmonies. It absolutely works.
For a guitarist who has built a career around thick, growling powerchords, the playing on this album is at times wonderfully subtle and understated. Take the splashes of electric colour that illuminate ‘Everybody Has To Sing The Blues’ or the crystal clear picking on the acoustic title track and on the tender ‘Bring Them Home’.
But when Bromham chooses to rip it up, he does so with style. The pumping blues-rock of ‘Words’ sets up a stunning Walter Trout-esque solo/instrumental climax to die for. Likewise the high-octane outro to ‘You Don’t Know How I Feel’ and the rattling, buzzing ‘Catch You When You Fall’. And if the salvo of reverb bottle-neck heaven that opens ‘What Comes Around’ doesn’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, check your vital signs immediately.
The voice fits the bill too. Check out the vocals cracked with pain on ‘Smiling Face’ (dedicated to Bromham’s daughter who is fighting cancer) and the worldly wise, reflective ‘Father and Daughter, Mother and Son’. His duet with Cherry Lee Mewis on ‘What Comes Around’ breaks things up nicely.
There are uplifting moments liberally scattered through the album. ‘World In a Suitcase’ is a slice of bar room boogie The Faces could have smashed out, and ‘The Ballad of JD’ has flashes of wry humour in its celebration of a certain Tennessee sour mash whiskey. Throughout the sound is crisp without being dry and sharp without being sterile. And a word here for the solid grooves laid down by Karl Randall on the drumstool. Save for the backing vocals and some harmonica, Bromham handles everything else.
A splendid departure for the main Stray cat. Let’s hope it isn’t another nine years before he picks up the blues baton again.
Review by Dave Atkinson
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