Gerry Jablonski [Release date 02.12.16]
The fact that Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band chose Poland to cut a live album tells you all you need to know about the relentless road work that this Scottish band have undertaken in the last few years.
Recorded on their last Polish tour, ‘Live Trouble’ is that rare commodity, an undoctored live album that genuinely captures the hard working band at it’s best.
Gerry Jablonski & The Electric Band fly the flag for a rich Scottish blues heritage that goes back to the likes of Jack Bruce, Maggie Bell’s Stone The Crows, Frankie Miller, Big George & The Business, Tam White, Blues ‘n’ Trouble, and more recently The Nimmo Brothers, Lewis Hamilton, Dana Dixon and Dave Acari etc.
Over the last 5 years guitarist Jablonski and his band have honed their own signature sound, full of brusque harp-led note flurries and plenty of light and shade with imposing guitar resolutions over a rock solid rhythm section.
All the above elements comes together perfectly on the incendiary instrumental ‘Blues Power’. They stretch out confidently and when they return to the opening riff and you think they’ve finished, there’s a pregnant pause – long enough for the crowd applause to fill the track - before the band slips into overdrive with a blizzard of harp and guitar notes over an unrelenting bass, on a highpoint of the album.
Having established themselves as a tight band with well crafted material, they pull out a little extra and impressively jam the track to its conclusion.
They open with an equally impressive brace of songs, of which the infectious riff driven ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ and the funky ‘Trouble With The Blues’ is further evidence of just how tight they are, with drummer Lewis Fraser – jocularly called: “the Tom Cruise of rock’ – a veritable power house who pushes the band to the limit.
Peter Narojczyk is a blues-harp tone king, who frequently adds deep phrases to evoke lyrical meaning and expression. His delicate break on the extended slow blues of ‘Down To The Ground’ is an object lesson in dynamics, as the band breaks the song down and subtly reconstructs it with real feel and raucous energy.
Jablonski also digs deep for an emotional connection on ‘Anybody’ – a song dedicated to their late drummer Dave Innes – before adding a defining guitar break. He’s the personification of the band, a gritty vocalist and explosive guitarist who makes every solo count.
Bassist Grigor Leslie also comes into his own on a funky break on the afore mentioned ‘Trouble With The Blues’, on which the rhythm section thunders with real intent and the front line duo soars.
If there’s a slight reservation about the album, it’s only fact that the band’s raw and honest approach means the sonic quality is variable to boomy, but that is counterweighted by their relentless energy and the self evident connection they share with their enthusiastic crowd.
They effortlessly slip into a solid groove on ‘Lady And I’ and Fraser adds a funky drum part on Jablonski’s autobiographical ‘Skinny Blue Eyed Boy’, a song that works hard to generate a climactic finish with some neat mid-number riffs and Narojczyk’s John Popper (Blues Traveller) style harp work. The concluding double harp and guitar lines earns the band a well deserved response from the crowd.
The key elements to this enjoyable album are the band’s subtle use of restraint – Jablosnki hold’s back from a full blown guitar showcase until the closing ‘Broken Heart’ – their impressive musical diversity, and the fact that the live set has an essential linear focus like all good gigs should have.
Their Chicago based style is tempered by Brit blues rock intensity and just when you think you’ve got their stylistic measure, they slip into the cool groove of ‘The Curse’, another highlight featuring a fine vocal performance by Jablonski, before some feverish harp and guitar interplay.
They round things off perfectly with ‘Broken Heart’, which counterbalances their essential bluster with a crisp rhythmic attack and Jablonski steely intensity.
‘Live Trouble’ is a song driven album, full of passionate playing, ripping solo’s, and a real sense of identity. It’s a rip roaring live blues album full of original material and cut in front of an enthusiastic Polish audience who are ahead of their British counterparts in recognising a fine band whose time has come. ****
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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