Red Train Records Records [Release date 27.01.14]
‘Get It While You Can’ wrestles with the common problem of a Brit band trying to sound authentic on material that evokes the deep south with some shit kicking roots rock. Rosco leads from the front, with some sterling slide guitar playing, nifty picking, ripping solos and songs full of booming hooks and catchy riffs.
The result is an Americana tinged album full of good songs and shot through with southern rock infused gospel, blues and country influences, topped by virtuoso playing. It’s an album that smoulders with intent and builds with subtly crafted layered sounds to finally ignite with big harmony vocals and sparkling band interplay.
Rosco’s Americana influences percolate and bubble up in unexpected places. ‘Howitzer Eyes’ for example, uses Allman Brothers style unison guitars to build towards a climactic solo, albeit with a sudden ending. He indulges himself with western themed imagery on ‘Redemption Call’ over a big tremolo figure and muted trumpet, while on both ‘When The Band Starts To Play’ and ‘Southern Belle’ he steals an intro from The Band before forging his own path.
The former is a slow burner, featuring an ascending guitar line, a layered sound and majestic bv’s, while the latter builds from a gentle acoustic intro to a Joe Cocker style gospel drenched rocker, to bookend a perfectly weighted album
With the exception of the puzzling ‘Look Out Moses’ – which finds a swaggering tempo change, topped and tailed by a Bo Diddley beat – Rosco’s songs ring out loud and clear. And it’s his ability to colour his narratives with some burning solos that makes ‘Get It While You Can’ an album worth retuning to on a regular basis.
This album is a step-up in terms of his song writing and a beefy production that emphasizes several uplifting moments and significant hooks. It has the feel of a song writer’s journal, rooted in a southern rock vibe that never looses sight of the importance of the lyrics.
The title track anchors the album by neatly balancing Rosco’s words and the band’s inspired playing. He also cleverly transforms the familiar themes of ‘a bottle’, ‘a woman’ and ‘a fight’, into a slide-led rocker, which segues into the contrasting acoustic and country tinged ‘My Gospel’, a song that again focuses on his descriptive ability.
He opens with the line: ‘I’m going back where the hills reach the sky’, on a live in the studio piece on which he encourages his fellow band members, guitarist Andy Hayes and keyboard player Lee Wilson to solo over David Tettmark’s brushed strokes, before adding a defining dobro solo himself over bv’s.
The album opens with the catchy riff of ‘Some Angels Fall’ and he soon slips into some heavy duty rock-a-boogie on the afore mentioned ‘Howitzer Eyes’, before exploring the mighty harmonies, slick horn arrangement and the repeated hook of ‘Back To The Banks’. It’s arguably Rosco at his best. A slinky and funky rhythm is topped by an impassioned vocal performance and a nicely distorted guitar break which he spontaneously announces himself.
It this combination of voice, band interplay and a live in the studio feel that gives the album the kind of undulating drive and dynamism so often lacking in contemporary music. Rosco’s songs are rooted in wholesome grooves that can only come from a real band and his narratives ache with sincerity and sometimes immerse you filmic possibilities.
Such is the strength of his song writing that his slightly nasal vocal soon finds its natural place in sparkling arrangements full of bristling harmonies and booming hooks. Everything comes together brilliantly on the funky ‘I Got My Own Plan’, on which he uses judiciously uses a processed voice on the hook to bring dynamic contrast to another sumptuous groove.
The Stones proved all those years ago that you can build your own Americana legacy, and Rosco Levee has the songs to fill his own canvas and establish himself as a latter day troubadour. He’s rockier than Gram Parsons would ever be, but more song focussed than say the Rival Sons, which is a roundabout way of saying Rosco Levee and the Southern Slide have their own thing going on, and ‘Get It While You Can’ nails it so well. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Rosco Levee formed the Southern Slide and they released their debut album in 2012. Now Rosco and his band are back with their second album, a highly enjoyable mix of blues rock and recalling bands like the Allman Brothers through to more modern artists like Jon Amor.
Kicking off the album in style with ‘Some Angels Fall’, this song recalls the Allman Brothers in their 70’s heyday, whilst ‘Gambling Man’ with the piano and simple guitar riff reminded me of Jon Amor.
The album’s standout is ‘Howitzer Eyes’, a real foot to the floor blues rock stomper that the Answer love to do, especially with the big harmony vocal backing on the chorus. Again the piano playing of Lee Wilson adds greatly to the song. ‘My Gospel’ shows the slower side of the band’s repertoire, southern rock meets the blues and it segues nicely on from the preceding song ‘Whiskey Blues Tonight’. Like a UK version of the Black Crowes if you will.
2014 may be less than a day old at the time of writing this review, yet we already have an early contender for those annual ‘best of’ lists. This album works for me on both the strong vocals as well as the songs which have plenty of musical variety. ****1/2
Review by Jason Ritchie
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UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.
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