Album review: CATFISH – Broken Man

Catfish - Broken Man

CD Baby [Release date 29.01.17]

Catfish’s ‘Broken Man’ is a good example of the high standard of contemporary British blues-rock. Their 10 track album features 9 impressive self penned tracks, shot through with enough feel and spark to satisfy all blue palettes.

The band is the road tested sum of its parts, with the father and son team of vocalist /guitarist Matt Long and keyboard playing vocalist Paul Long, who stretch out safe in the knowledge they are supported by the rock solid rhythm section of bassist Dusty Bones and Kevin Yates.

They smoulder, groove and in their own time explode out of the traps with a superbly produced blues-rock album full of well crafted songs and plenty of focused intensity.

‘Broken Man’ is essentially their self penned breakthrough album. It sounds like the result of plenty of pre-prep and thoughtful song writing, realized through booming arrangements, sparkling playing and with enough variety to stand head and shoulders over many of their contemporaries.

The obvious focal point is Matt’s earthy vocals and his fiery guitar playing, but the music is carefully balanced with a frequent use of layered parts, a big wall of sound and some inspired solos that always remain an integral part of the song.

From the aptly titled opener ‘Hit The Ground Running’ they aim high with a bludgeoning blues rocker that instantly make a splash.

If there’s tiny criticism it’s simply that on the opening brace of songs they try too hard to emulate Joe Bonamassa, while Paul Long’s riff-led power shuffle ‘Never Go Back’ owes much to Walter Trout. But then again, most bands wouldn’t complain about such comparisons and the CD does enough to reconfirm a unique musical identity that has already led to a couple of deserved Brit blues awards.

The variety is provided by the retro soul influenced ‘Better Days’, the imperious  ‘All I Ask Of You’ and the beautifully voiced ‘Part As Strangers’, on which special guest Paul Jones’s harp solo matches Paul Long’s heartfelt vocal seamlessly.

Everything comes together on the pivotal slow burning title track which has the feel of a mini blues-suite with a proggy undertow It explores the full gamut of the band’s broad musical sweep, particularly at the 6 minute mark when they stretch out impressively only to be drawn back into Matt’s intense solo resolution over Kevin Yates muscular drum work.

There’s still time for a the hard edged funk of the organ-led and gnawing guitar tone of ‘Big Shot’ and a cover of Foy Vance’s ‘Make It Rain’.

Dedicated to the sadly missed guitarist Michael Caswell, this live set favourite is a 14 minute opus, complete with an atmospheric tremolo and a defining solo into which Matt pours every last ounce of emotion and intensity.

For anyone unfamiliar with Catfish thus far, ‘Broken Man’ invites us into a passionate and at times emotive musical journey that traces every aspect of the band’s expansive Brit blues-rock style.

If blues is defined as the ability to explore deep emotion, then ‘Broken Man’ is unreservedly recommended to anyone who wants a poignant reminder of what the genre is supposed to be about. ****½

Review by Pete Feenstra

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