Album review: SWEETKISS MOMMA – A Reckoning Is Coming

SWEETKISS MOMMA – A Reckoning Is Coming

Self Release [Release date 01.03.14]

The Tacoma based Sweetkiss Momma defy all expectations by being a Washington state based, 70’s influenced, self sufficient, southern influenced roots rock outfit.

Musically schooled in a church background and rooted in gospel, they’ve stepped out to explore a classic rock ringed soulful roots rock hybrid.

‘A Reckoning Is Coming’ offers much more than its portentous title suggests. They may carry their retro influences proudly, but their music has depth and branches out from southern tinged roots rock into Americana.

It’s an album cut in Nashville under the watchful eye of Wilco drummer and producer Ken Coomer who stumbled across the band and promptly wanted to produce them. It’s also mastered by Richard Dodd (TomPetty/Boz Scaggs/Robert Plant), who nails their spark with chiming tones.

The result is a vibrant, riff led, occasionally low-down and dirty, multi-layered album full of sonic resonance, subtle textures,  thoughtful songs and it’s fired by a ‘can do’ approach.

The energy, drive and cutting edge bluster is all there in the title track with its air molecule shifting intensity. The stuttering rhythm of ‘Get Some Love’ is heavily reminiscent of Moreland & Arbuckle’s ‘Modern Boy’ (from their ‘7 Cities’ album),  except it’s interwoven with Sweetkiss Momma’s  wry, humorous lyrics:  ‘You’ve been scooting round that dance floor all evening, shaking it like gospel bringing sinners to believing’,  before being rounded off by a pile driving solo.

They also rock out on ‘Breathe Rebel’, a classic rock inflected southern rock mission statement, which could fit into any part of Skynryd’s back catalogue.

Jeff Hamel’s baritone phrasing fills each track with every possible lyrical nuance, and his sheer vocal presence brings gravitas to the sonorous slice of Americana that is ‘Same Old Stories’.

‘A Reckoning Is Coming’ is a deeply wrought affair, full of bristling energy, courtesy of the sledgehammer rhythm section of bassist Jeremy Hamel and powerhouse drummer Jimmy Hughs. The duo are versatile enough to know when to shift from the fiery bluster of ‘Fix My Hair’ to the groove of ‘Dry Uncle Deezer’ and give the multi-layered music a sense of purpose to match the song narratives.

Sure, there’s obvious Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers influences and even the jangly guitars and Americana feel of Green On Red, but ultimately Sweetkiss Momma create their own tasty mélange.

The songs have enough substance to match the band’s inherent ability to jam and shape them to their own ends. From Aaron Arnold’s slashed slide guitar opening, Jeff’s baritone vocals and the unexpected blues-harp line on ‘Fix My Hair’, this is a band that takes no prisoners.

Just when you think you know what they are all about, they thrown in a curve ball with the kitchen sink and all, ‘For The Last Time’. The edgy, chopped chord tension and stop-start arrangement is partially resolved by an unexpected piano line and a mid-number break-down, before a harmony guitar duet brings the song full circle.

And it is the melodic ebb and flow and the constant search for an equilibrium that characterizes an album that juxtaposes the delicate melody and scratched acoustic guitar strings of ‘Laura Rose’ with the burgeoning blues-harp intro and Hammond led sweep of ‘Dirty Uncle Deezer’.

The latter finishes with a catchy ‘nah-nah-nah’ refrain before a stop-time break and an explosive coda emphasizes the core dynamic at the heart of an engaging album.

And if ‘Birthday Cake’ is something of a throw away filler, the closing reprise of ‘Breathe Rebel’ simply re-affirms the independent life force of a band that for all its familiar influences, rocks out on its own terms.  ****

Review By Pete Feenstra

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