Proper [Release date 14.04.17]
Krissy Mathews lives or dies by the first take and his road tested band do him proud on an album full of tight interplay, scorching solos, raw aggression and a magnificent unexpected finish.
He makes up for a lack of memorable songs and a passable monotone vocal with a set full of raw aggression and searing intensity, captured on what sounds like desk recording
There’s plenty of brute force and swagger here, as evidenced by the opening straight-to- the verse ‘Feeling For The Blues’.
The catchy ‘All Night Long’ evokes early TYA right right down to Alvin Lee style nasal vocal and his fiery fretboard work, on a surprisingly reflective piece for a 24 year old. Krissy takes off at the one minute, 17 seconds mark, as the song goes into overdrive to offset an effective rumbling bass line
He later explores a similar catchy hook on ‘Bad Boy’ as part of an up tempo stomp on which forces his voice into a range he simply doesn’t have. This perhaps explains the echo reverb on the hook.
For the most part, ‘Live At Freak Valley’ is a heavy-duty power trio rock album with occasional blues references. It’s pile driving festival fare full of plank spanking solos over a bone crunching rhythm section, as the band obviously connects with the stoner rock crowd.
When he does reference the blues on Blind Willie McTell’s ‘Searching The Desert For The Blues’, Krissy almost gets caught in the stuttering web of his own exuberance. He wisely falls back on a staccato funky bass line that ushers in a bluesy groove. He tops that with guitar squalls and chicken noises, before his scorching fretwork again lights up the North German festival crowd.
Krissy tells his crowd that ‘The Soul Will Never Die’ is written for and inspired by his meeting with B.B. King, but his phrasing lets him down, though it is counter-weighted by his guitar playing.
He saves his best blues effort for last, with the smouldering, heartfelt intro and climactic resolution of ‘Bubbles And The Seven Phones’. Given the powerhouse nature of the rest of the album, this is almost an exercise in restraint, as it encompasses Sam Weston’s cool bass solo and moves imperiously towards Krissy own climatic solo, ably matched by his best vocal of the album. This track alone makes the album worth purchasing.
He’s also enjoys the riff driven ‘Language By Injection’ which builds a tension that he resolves with a cascading solo. He broadens his palette with the raw urgency of Hendrix’s ‘Freedom’, on which he substitutes bombast for soul to earn a hard big reception from the crowd.
The 3 bonus tracks were recorded at Gerd’s Juke Joint in Joldelund and include the hot picking, harp driven hoedown of ‘Roadsick Blues’ and the outstanding afore mentioned ‘Bubbles And The Seven Phones’.
‘Live At Freak Valley’ is a warts and all album that will hold some appeal to gut bucket guitar driven rock/blues fans, but it’s essentially a stepping stone or perhaps a pit stop for a young rock/blues guitarist still honing his craft. ***
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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