Big Guitar [Release date 24.11.14]
‘Soldier Of The Line’ is an aptly titled, song driven album that taps into the unbroken spirit of Larry Miller.
His unrelenting roadwork, scuffed scratch plate, broken strings and relationship songs are the nuts and bolts of a rocking blues musician who constantly searches out the essential connection between his performance and his adoring fans.
As usual, his new album is stoked by fiery playing, ignited by his nervous energy and given depth by raw gut emotion ad passionate singing. But there’s also a raft of well crafted songs given coherence by the ‘inner voice of his guitar playing.
Sure there are elements of Gary Moore, Joe Bonamassa and even Thin Lizzy, but the consistent defining quality comes from Larry himself, who just like the soldier in the title, lays it all on the line.
From the stop-time horn arrangements and strummed acoustic to the slow building solo and muted trumpet outro of ‘One Fine Day’, everything points to the fact he’s been working on his songs and arrangements.
Larry may be known for his high octane shows and intense solos, but his last 3 studio albums have been more song driven and a real attempt to imbue his rock-blues style with more substance. The title track is a perfect example, being an emotive ballad with nuanced strings, a tinkling acoustic and a restrained vocal that pushes his ability to another level.
Rarely has Larry dug so deep into his songs and paid so much attention to his production. The result is his best album so far, albeit it’s a slow burner, because there are no real out and out rockers until the power ballad and album highlight ‘The Power You Have’. The latter is everything Larry has been working towards down the years. It frames both his visceral energy levels and guitar playing ability in an imposing wall of sound and is topped by an exclamatory “All right!”, that emphasize’s the fact it rocks.
Around the 3 minute mark he finally leans into the song and let’s rip with a marvellously distorted tone and builds the kind of clean, climactic solo that instantly connects him with his fans.
Given the confident opening, ‘Failed Again’ is an almost self deprecating titled Gary Moore influenced guitar led piece, with a heartfelt vocal, a ringing guitar motif over a drifting organ line and another potent string arrangement. ‘Our Time Is Coming’ reverts to the archetypal Larry template, of impassioned vocals with a pulsating riff and incisive crisp solo.
‘Come Hell Or High Water’ is another emotive relationship ballad with a killer horn that in part evokes Peter Green. The problem is it’s sequentially in the wrong place and should have come after the balls out rocking of ‘I Fight Myself’. The latter notably lifts the album and you could image this becoming a live favourite giving Larry plenty of space to stretch out.
It’s back to ballad territory for the harpsichord laden and Biblical references of ‘Bathsheba’, on which his wavering phrasing is saved by an emotive piercing guitar solo and extravagant string arrangement.
‘Mississippi Mama’ is a fine rocking finish to an album that works hard to take Larry to the next level. If he hasn’t quite got the balance right in terms of rocker and ballads, he’s certainly written some of his best songs and hit gold with some sumptuous string arrangements and the kind of deep toned solos that have pushed him to the forefront of British rock blues. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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12:00-13:00 SIGN X Like A Fire (Pride & Joy Music)
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MAGNUM Sleepwalking (1992)
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