Self Release [Release date 01.04.16]
The Blue Horizon is a power trio from the Weston-Super-Mare, UK. Their wide musical sweep is a breath of fresh air on the current rock/blues scene.
The band sparkles on the soulful, melodic funk and heartfelt refrain of ‘On Our Shoulders’, which employs a layered sound with a beautifully interwoven drifting piano, aching pedal steel and a violin line, before a violent rupture pulls us towards an essential intensity that glues together their vast musical landscape.
Front man Ian Eccleston, provides the muscular presence of a relentless guitarist who knows the value of dynamics and tonal variation. His passionate vocals draw the listener into some hard hitting narratives over the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Ed Gurlach and drummer Josh Armitage, who push him to the limit.
From the opening sustained guitar line and unrelenting energy of ‘I Don’t Mind’, The Blue Horizon is self evidently a rock/blues juggernaut with the emphasis on angst ridden rocking blues, but with real song craft and deeply entrenched grooves, counterweighted by coruscating riffs, ripping solos, and booming hooks.
Bob Dixon’s pedal steel and Paul Quinn on keyboards bring extra textures to an album that explores a perfect balance control and aggression.
It’s all there on the swaggering title track, which acts as a template for the album as whole. The band oozes confidence on a sudden drop-down only to rebuild the groove with lashing of buzz guitar on the animated chorus before leaping into the void with an intense solo. Their swagger is indeed ‘Justified’ and they do inhabit a ‘Big House’ which they fill with spiky intensity and an enveloping wall of sound.
Ultimately it’s their mix of spontaneity and stylistic diversity that gives the album its impact. Listen to the way they build the substance of ‘Zero Hour Contract’ – a booming repudiation of contemporary working conditions – and you’re hearing a band that powerfully hammers home the song’s message.
And right there in the eye of the storm, they suddenly slip into the slow blues of ‘Life Without You’. Given what’s gone before, it’s a sparse track that focuses our attention on the vocal and an unexpected violin line that serves to reinforce the lyrical pathos. The tension breaking solo at the end is the sort that will surely draw much appreciation at the band’s future live shows.
They almost get jazzy on ‘Fish Fryers Blues’, complete with an interesting drum pattern, stuttering tempo and slide guitar with echoes of Little Feat, while ‘I’m Broken’ is sludgy, syrupy funk, before they head into a characteristic quiet /loud dynamic.
They rock out on ‘Every Last One Of Us’ and add a climactic blues bonus track ‘Vanishing Love’.
The album title ‘Volume.1’ suggests there’s plenty more good stuff in the pipeline, and I for one cannot wait. ****½
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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