Album review: SAVOY BROWN – Witchy Feelin’

SAVOY BROWN – Witchy Feelin'

Ruf [Release date 25.08.17]

There’s a certain timeless appeal about Savoy Brown that extends beyond the familiar riff driven start of this album, through Kim Simmonds’ world weary vocals that bring years of experience to bear on familiar blues subject matter.

‘Witchy Feelin’ might well suggest the devil’s music, but its a fleeting reference that is torn asunder by a variety and contrast that makes for one of Savoy Brown’s most interesting and consistent albums of late.

Having existed for over four and half decades with an ever changing line-up, Kim Simmonds finally stepped out tentatively as a lead vocalist. And if the fans originally thought it was a mistake, then on the evidence of this album he’s palpably grown into the role.

His last few albums have seen him revel in his new vocal craft, while his understated phrasing is the perfect foil for his new role as a John Mayall style grandfather of Anglo/American blues.

As a result it’s not so much his lyrical acumen that hits home as his emotive growl. He voices a Mark Knopfler meets rough edged J.J. Cale style, as on the opening ‘Why Did You Hoodoo Me’.

The opening track counterbalances his steely guitar playing with his more relaxed vocal phrasing, which hovers perfectly above a siganature band style that has long cemented itself in the North American market

‘Witchy Feelin’ may thematically nuance the dark side just as old time blues records used to do, but this album is more of a shifting musical journey than a concept driven album.

‘Witchy Feelin’ initially shifts from an opening riff-driven rumination on love, to a trip down to Louisiana on the laid back and suitably titled ‘Livin’ On The Bayou’. There’s shades of Knopfler and Fogerty as Simmonds concentrates more on the space between the notes rather than his normal riff driven intensity.

It’s also a track that shows his maturity as a singer and arranger, as he lets the track breathe and his tone shine.

And talking about tone, he fully reveals his craft on the moody, slow blues title track, on which he sculpts his solo with all the experience, touch and tone that has made him such a potent force on the US blues scene. He dig deep for feel and his efforts are underpinned by Pat DeSalvo’s low down bass, and Garnet Grimm’s lightness of touch on the kit.

The piece cleverly evokes the song title and come close to the kind of meditative feel so beloved by Peter Green.

‘Guitar Slinger’ provides stark dynamic contrast, as Kim pours himself into another intense riff driven blues-rocker that summarises his enduring appeal. The fiery end solo suggests that there’s still plenty of petrol in the tank.

Apart from Simmonds career best vocals, ‘Witchy Feelin’ doesn’t really offer anything new, but it is a splendid reminder of the salient blues and boogie elements that originally gave Savoy Brown their initial impact.

It’s often said that if you stick around long enough your turn will come again, but Savoy Brown have been on a creative resurgence for the last 6 years from ‘Voodoo Moon’ onwards, and ‘Witchy Feelin’ is effectively the final piece in a musical jigsaw.

‘Vintage Man’ is Simmonds’ reflection on Roy Buchanan and choogles along in an unhurried, unfussy groove that Roy would surely have enjoyed.  It’s a track that finds Kim happy in his role as blues veteran, a role he leans into with some yearning slide on ‘Standing In A Doorway’, while his whispered vocal style effectively supports his slide playing.

‘Can’t Find Paradise’ re-ignites the energy levels and is a good example of the band’s timeless style, as Kim’s incendiary fretwork and note repeats leap out of the track like sparks from a wood burner.

The wah-wah inflected ‘Thunder, Lightning & Rain’ goes further, as Kim taps into the band’s historic collective consciousness for a flash of his younger self, while he perfectly rounds things off with the suitably jazzy ‘Close To Midnight’, as his lovely touch and tone evoke the late night feel of the title.

‘Witchy Feelin’ beguiles us with Kim Simmonds delicate touch, heartfelt vocals and a true feeling for the blues, that he continues to craft with a spirit and joy de vivre that leaves many of his contemporaries in the shade . ****

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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