Album review : P-A-U-L Lamb & Detroit Breakdown – Take It From The Top

P-A-U-L Lamb & Detroit Breakdown - Take It From The Top

Nominated as the ‘Best Overseas Artist in the 2014 British Blues Awards’, Paul Lamb & The Detroit Breakdown use the blues as a launch pad for something far more adventurous.

Their Detroit background leads them to dark imagery with lyrical depth. ‘Take It From The Top’ blends together funk, blues, white boy soul, gospel and powerhouse rocking in a coherent summation of their career so far

Ed Wolfram, the famed Motown engineer, knows an interesting band when he hears one and he’s obviously impressed enough to intricately master a compilation that sounds like an album in its own right.

‘Take It From The Top’ is a narrative driven album full of layered guitar lines and spacious arrangements. It’s built on an essential grasp of dynamics, harmonies and Paul’s emotive phrasing.

The songs are full of the band’s urban reflections and poetic beauty, while the music and production is shot though with hints of psychedelia and Randy California’s Spirit and beyond.

‘Take It From The Top’ is the perfect introduction for new fans who have only just discovered this hugely original Detroit power trio. Paul Lamb is the croaky voiced front man with real lyrical vision and array of guitar tones, while powerhouse drummer Layla Hall adds a startling vocal accompaniment and chunky, funky bass player Joey Spina glues it all together.

They open with the hard funk, and hypnotic chant of ‘Kiss My Scars’, while there a Hendrix vibe and psychedelic undertow to the beautifully crafted ‘One Last Show Dance’, on which Paul’s emotive phrasing gives way to Layla’s sensual uplifting vocal

It’s a piece of beautifully refracted psychedelia with colourful lyrics as evidenced by the following line: ‘A mosaic of shattered dreams, one night, time will never erase, one last slow dance with your memory’.

‘Dead In El Passo’ is much heavier, opening with a distorted Neil Young style grungy feel, and doubled up vocal and guitar lines. The layered sounds are bathed in a psychedelic deluge of echo reverb, wah-wah, crashing cymbals and a feedback outro

‘Beautiful Things’ is the polar opposite, being positive hymnal ballad full with a sing-along hook, on which Paul is a first person narrator who overcomes his pain in faux falsetto mode and searches for redemption in a white boy soul arrangement that works perfectly as a link piece.

He adds a raw hoarse vocal on the funky, percussive ‘I Ain’t Giving You Up’ as the band works its way towards an explosive finish. It’s full of fuzz guitar and an uplifting gospel outro, complete with a stylus ripping across vinyl at the conclusion of the song.

Their noir narrative driven signature style is best captured on their masterpiece ‘Gunshot Lullaby’, full of nuanced layered guitars and dark imagery:  “Moving shadows play machine gun ballet, to vacant lots in power lines, everything that will it wont, everything that ”.

The laid back arrangement is always just behind the beat, creating a Pink Floyd style space that colours the track with countless possibilities. Layla appears to crash her cymbals in slow motion over a lingering guitar motif as Paul’s nicely croaked voice tells his tale: ‘And she tired, than she’s ever been and she’s holding on to a fight she can’t win. She’ll cross the hall and hope to fly, it’s a serenade of gunshot lullaby.’

As the guitars lines power into the ether, the groove sweeps you along and the band sculpt a memorable aural landscape.

Having taken you to the edge, they rock out on portentous ‘Detroit’s On Fire’ and then strip things down on the celebratory rocker ‘Time Of My Life’.

They finish with ‘We Believe’, a heart felt piece that climaxes with another enveloping gospel finish, while the slide-led ‘The Drinks Are On Me’ is a tension breaking finale to an album full of refreshing originality.

Detroit has been the home of garage rock, Motown, funk and soul and rocking blues but right now Paul Lamb & The Detroit Breakdown incorporate all those elements and are arguably that city’s most potent export for years.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra


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