Album review: MARK OLBRICH BLUES ETERNITY – Blues Everywhere


Hrpp records [Release date 26.o8.17]

Mark Olbrich is a veteran Anglo/Polish blues bass player with an impressive CV both that spreads right across eastern Europe to the States.

Both the material and band is built round Olbrich’s rock solid and lilting bass lines and Eddie Angel’s expressive vocals and concise guitar work. Angel further teases out the emotion of a song through intense solos and tonal variation.

And while this isn’t quite a band album as such, Olbrich has built his studio project round the core players of drummer Allesandro Cinelli – with a special mention for the great shuffle drummer Maurice McElroy who contributes an essential part of the boogie arrangement of ‘Hey Hey Mississippi’ – Eddie Angel and keyboard player Igor Nowicki.

There’s also further contributions from Olbrich’s long time harp player and former Yardbird Laurence Garman who brings versatility and tone to his tracks.

It all makes for a 7 track mini album full of deep grooves, boogie and of course the blues.

As Mark explains in his liner notes, the album title is a reference to the many places he has ploughed his trade in as a blues bass playing band leader and booker, and more specifically how the blues has impacted on him emotionally and given him a context for the songs.

The opening ‘Volcano’ is a very good example of how the Angel/Olbrich song writing partnership draws on personal experience to pen some contemporary blues. The song is about being delayed by volcanic ash in the middle of a tour, as a Texas style groove soon gives way to Eddie’s first solo on a seamless arrangement.

‘Hey Hey Mississippi’ is a harp led boogie that is reminiscent of the Bob Hite led Canned Heat. It has a relentless swagger that gives the song its impetus.

They say that you should always judge a blues band’s credentials on a slow blues and Blues Eternity triumph with ‘Texas Can Wait’.

It’s a narrative driven song that evokes a timeless, perhaps imagined journey through the Southern States. Garman adds country blues harp alongside Nowieki’s nuanced piano fills and McElroy’s brushed stroked rhythm.

The 7 track album focuses on feel through some intricate band interplay that refreshingly always serves the song. In that respect ‘Texas Can Wait’ lives and breathes the wide open spaces that the lyrics evoke. Angel adds a clean toned and restrained solo which is the perfect foil for Garman’s harp.

In sharp contrast, Angel’s close-to-the-mic phrasing on the heavy riff driven ‘Testify’ is a tough muscular outing with a thudding back beat. Angel’s angular guitar tone adds another sonic layer to a stretched out cut that will surely become a live favourite.

It’s a good example of the way the band fuses the past with the present. The riff driven dual guitar theme could be the Allman’s, while the lyrics are cool word plays through which Angel emotes the blues.

‘Blues Everywhere’ musically mirrors the album title. It’s routed in deep blues traditions, but the music is contemporized on the band’s own terms with strong material and a fine performance. The evolving studio line-up somehow manages to stay true to core band imprint by adhering to the arrangements, while adding just enough feel to emphasise the bluesy aspects that glue the whole album together.

There’s also a significant stylistic change on ‘Big Easy’, as Angel adopts a Johnny Cash baritone style of phrasing over John Eacott’s muted trumpet, on a song with a wide screen, spaghetti western flavour.

And while the earlier ‘Testify’ makes a riff driven impact – think Martin Barre’s jagged guitar lines in Jethro Tull –  ’Hammers’ incorporates a whammy bar intro that ushers us into a lilting funky feel, over a Hammond back drop.

The dirgy feel would surely make the late Jack Bruce smile – you could image Bruce singing this – but Angel adds his own rap style of phrasing to deliver the song’s meaning.

‘Hammers’ is arguably the most ambitious track on the album, as it searches for spark through an unusual descending chord structure, before resolving the tension with a fiery, intense and big toned Eddie Angel guitar solo.

His vocal on the hook could almost be Paul Rogers, suggesting that when called on he has more to deliver.

The closing ‘Toruń’ -  an ode to the North Polish city known for its Gingerbread - is an up tempo rocker on which features Eddie in his element on both vocals and guitar, while the Olbrich/Cinelli combination nails the bottom end.

And there it is. ‘Blues Everwhere’ is a short, sharp and focussed celebration of contemporary blues. Moreover, Mark Olbrich’s Blues Eternity is a great barometer of the standard of blues on both sides of the Atlantic. They rock, they boogie, they get deep into the blues and they groove effortlessly on an album of original material that makes a significant impact.  ****

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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