Album review: SAM KELLY’S STATION HOUSE – No Barricades

SAM KELLY'S STATION HOUSE - No Barricades

[Release date 24.11.17]

Sometimes, the unlikeliest of releases just tick the right boxes.

Last week, the metal infused debut from Scream Serenity, pronounced itself essential listening.  And now Sam Kelly’s Station House have done the same with a blues release, that by rights shouldn’t appear on my particular ‘likes’ radar.

A veteran drummer, with over 40 years in the business, Kelly is a pro’s pro – a ‘go to’ guy – who’s played with the likes of Gary Moore, Chaka Khan, Dr John, Ben E. King, Robert Plant, The Foundations, Gordon Haskell, Billy Ocean, Desmond Dekker, Eddie Floyd, Roger Chapman, Michelle Shocked, Mick Ralphs, Paul Jones, Imelda May, Robben Ford, and Andy Fairweather Low.  To name but a few.

Formed in the early nineties from the concept of an all-black blues infused with funk and soul, his Station House band held the residence at the Station Tavern, London for a decade.  The venue long since gone, Kelly relaunched the band in 2009 with a new line up – himself (drums/backing vocals), Paul Jobson (keys/vocals), Richard Sadler (bass) , Tong Qunta (guitar/vocals) and Jerome Marcus (percussion/backing vocals, with Rowena Poole joining as a third lead singer in 2016.

Although, a bit like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, ‘live’ the Station House line up is something of a moveable feast, and Kelly has a finger in many pies, for example, taking on the role of Musical Director and leading the rhythm section for the 2007 Soul Britannia Allstars Review at the Barbican, running drum workshops, undertaking theatre, radio and TV work, and performing with his roots/reggae outfit FOWOKAN.

So after decades of playing on other’s records, Sam Kelly has finally put together his own – No Barricades, a collection recorded in France, played by British musicians, that makes connections that run from Jamaican reggae and Caribbean calypso, to North American blues.

At face value that might put a lot of people off – me included.  But actually, Barricades is a rather engaging affair, recorded with a very clean sound that separates each instrument/ vocal to marvellous effect – as Kelly says, it is the nearest thing you will hear to Station House playing live.

It opens with a fantastic rendition of Labbi Siffre’s 1975 jazz/funk number ‘The Vulture’.  The drums are crisp and clean, the vocals soulful, the keys funky – it could so easily be Jamiroquai (but better).

But Barricades doesn’t settle on any one style, although Texan blues rock does get a fair look in half the 14 tracks being T W Henderson covers, the pick of the bunch being the soulful duet ‘In-City Blues’ with some delightful Latin guitar/keys with a reggae mid-section and gospel fade, and the spine tingling ballad ‘There Must Be Something In The Water’.

Elsewhere, there’s funk – ‘Trippin’ Over The Wire’, blistering blues rock – ‘Howl Into The Midnight’, reggae infused calypso imbued with soul – ‘Little Big Man’, R&B/soul/rock – ‘Black And White’ (think Roachford), blues rock/funk – ‘Texas Special’, and soul/funk – ‘Standing At The Station’.

There’s something here for every lover of great music, and it’s delivered with a joie de vivre that simply oozes from the grooves.  Recommended.   ****

Review by Pete Whalley


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