Self release [Release date 22.11.17]
Whether or not The Della Grants take their name from Muddy Waters grandmother or the American roots reggae singer Della Grant, there’s certainly a musical meeting of minds on an album that references blues, soul and even reggae.
You suspect that Leicester’s innovative blues-rockers The Della Grant think nothing of riding roughshod over a variety of influences in an attempt to forge their own style.
They are clearly on a mission to explore new contemporary roots music that leads to them to exciting possibilities, which they nail effortlessly while letting others worry about the label.
They eschew the well trodden blues-rock cliché’s of power chords, belligerent solos and vacuous lyrics, to follow their own granular path. This leads them from rock-blues through Americana to soul infected roots-rock and deep grooves.
‘Live Room Sessions’ is their second album – not forgetting a 4 track CD/EP – and the fact that it’s a live in the studio recording gives them an organic feel that works well for a band that is constantly evolving and shaping a new direction.
They are nothing if not self confident. Their first album was abrasively titled ‘Time For A Change’, while the following EP/CD ‘First Fix’ served as notice that they were moving in a slightly different direction than before.
‘Live Room Sessions Vol 1′ (it sounds as if they are already thinking about a follow up), is partly a reprise, as they revisit several previously issued rough diamonds and make them sparkle. It’s also a notable step forward in developing their own voice and style.
There’s a growing maturity at play and a welcome emphasis on songcraft that puts them just in front of their contemporaries.
Their bluster filled rock blues has a soulful bent, none more so than on the sparsely arranged, but atmospheric ‘Sunrise’ – on which Max Manning’s vocal phrasing sounds very much like The Spin Doctors’ Chris Barron, while guest trumpeter Tony Robinson brings an extra emotive input.
Then there’s ‘Too Fast’, a snaking guitar led piece featuring Manning’s soulful vocal, before the band comes in on the second verse with a weighty presence that evokes The Band.
There’s an undeniable Americana pull to their music with impassioned vocals and deeply embedded subtle grooves.
The album opens with Tom Best’s aching harp driven train-time blues ‘Lay My Head’, as they take us down that railroad track into the heart of an Americana landscape.
And while they don’t quite pursue a clean cut linear progression, they soak up the landscape and offer us musical snapshots of a wide musical horizon.
As a result ‘Live Sessions’ is a slow burner which takes several plays to join the dots, from the coruscating bombast of ‘The River’ to the honky-tonk, Stonesy feel of ‘William Clay’.
It’s an album that draws you in on different levels from the sharp contrast between ‘The River’ and ‘Sunrise’, to the intricate detail of ‘Fairground Soul, which drags us over the coals and into a climactic finish.
Then there’s the impressive ‘Weaker Man’, which moves from Andy Boulton’s descending bass line into a mighty shuffle, while Tom Best’s chording and rhythm playing is the perfect foil for Manning’s lead guitar. The song pulls us into several musical twist and turns, including a reggae feel on the hook and a jazzy mid-section, complemented by lyrical depth and a swing led finale.
The Della Grants have the same ragged feel of say The Faces, which sometimes masks coherent, well structured songs with steely licks, passionate vocals and tasteful solos. They are also anchored by the subtle stuttering rhythm section of drummer Tom Walker and bassist Andy Boulton, both of whom know the value of space and time.
The closing harp-led shuffle ‘Red Mist’ combines all their outstanding elements in swaggering finish that is the perfect resolution to all that’s gone before.
‘Live Room Sessions’ smoulders, flickers and eventually burns as the best albums should. It’s a triumph because the band successfully meets the challenge of delivering a unique style within extant genres. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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