GJB [Release date 21.04.15]
Anybody who has heard Gerry Jablonski’s ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ , the opening cut from their last ‘Twist Of Fate’ album will know the high standards the Scottish band set themselves.
‘Trouble With The Blues’ is their fourth album and works hard to take things a step further. It’s a blues-rock album that nails their live spark but adds the gloss of by being mastered at Abbey Road studios, known for its big sound.
It’s an album that oozes every last drop of sweat of a hard hitting band while bringing a fresh sonic quality that emphasizes the vigour of their solos, the intuitive band interplay and Gerry’s aching vocals, which in turn evokes the band’s hard working life style.
The solos define both the band and their songs, as they mix fiery intensity with contrasting feel. The closing ballad ‘I Confess’ includes the line: “Think I’ve got potential to be the best I can, if you don’t understand the child, you won’t understand the man”, which could almost be a comment about themselves as one of the most underrated bands on the circuit.
‘Trouble With The Blues’ is a well sequenced album anchored by a rock solid section of bassist Grigor Leslie and drummer Lewis Fraser, who allow the songs to breathe, but push the two soloist to their full potential.
The band have obviously worked on their song writing, as evidenced by the riff driven and expansive chorus of ‘The Well’. It features a great vocal and solo from Gerry, an extra harp line from Peter and their search for the epic might make the likes of Glenn Hughes smile.
The opening title track is a high voltage rocker with a funky undertow that serves notice of both Jablonski guitar playing ability and Peter Narojczyk’s deep toned harp, and the duo leap into the void without a safety net on the extended slow blues of ‘Down To The Ground’.
‘The Curse’ opens with typically catchy Jablonski riff and an expansive Narojczyk harp solo before the two trade licks with all the frisson you’d expect of a road tested blues band.
They explore a change of pace on ‘Anybody’, a surprisingly restrained ballad on which Gerry digs deep for emotion and Peter’s harp references ‘Amazing Grace’, as they build up the tension on a track that reflects the coherent flow of the album.
In many ways ‘Trouble With The Blues’ in an exercise in bringing something new and refreshing to the blues rock template, and the band go some way to achieving that end. The 10 tracks highlight their musical virtuosity while their solos remain an integral part of the songs, even if ‘Lady & I’ does struggles to overcome a cluttered arrangement on which there’s simply too much going on.
The guitar harp combination again features on ‘Rich Or Poor’ which finds Gerry switching to slide, while ‘Fork Fed Dog’ could be ZZ Top, as the band lean into over four minutes of boogie and bluster.
You can image that by the time we hear this material live the songs will have grown organically, but for the moment ‘Trouble With the Blues’ is that rare thing, a studio recording of a band playing live, together to the best of their abilities, and isn’t that what rocking blues is supposed to be about anyway? ****
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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