Provogue [Release date 23.03.18]
If there’s a dichotomy at the heart of ’The Divine And Dirty’ – Kris Barras’s debut album for Provogue – it’s probably a reference to his first hand knowledge of what to takes to make it.
The British former cage fighter has already been part of rock & roll firmament before. And having announced his return to the rock scene with the promising ‘Lucky 13′, ‘The Devine And Dirty’ is a bigger, more ambitious affair befitting his move to a bigger label.
In short, the album trims the fat and goes for the throat. It’s fuelled by a batch of significant resolving guitar solo’s and the well written songs are framed by glistening harmony heavy hooks .
It’s a booming rock album with undoubted commercial appeal, particularly when it fleetingly reveals its Black Stone Cherry and Nickelback influences.
There’s an emphasis on potent riffs, bulldozer hooks and a fiery vocal with enough versatility to shift from the laid back opening lines of the Julian Sas influenced ‘Lovers Or Losers’ into a chanted hook.
When coupled with songs such as ‘She’s More Than Enough’, Barras reveals a penchant for hair metal hooks, but there’s nothing wrong with his strong song structures and big pay-offs, even though they are sometimes telegraphed.
Curiously though, for an album with big rock ambitions, the production doesn’t always deliver consistently. The opening ‘Kick Me Down’ lays down the essential sonic template and quickly leads us to an album highlight, the a cappella-led ‘Hail Mary’, on which Barras combines hot riffing with a voluminous harmony hook.
He’s equally good on ‘Blood On Your Hands’, on which the opening riff sounds like a cross between Walter Trout and Steely Dan, topped by a booming vocal and visceral solo.
‘Propane’ however, initially sounds too compressed and has an annoying drum sound, before the balance is redressed with the kind of accessible and familiar sounding hook favoured by latter day Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Black Stone Cherry.
On the shuffle ‘Wrong Place, Wrong Time’, he adds an edgier guitar tone almost as if trying to bring more sonic presence.
Overall, ‘The Divine And Dirty’ is a very American sounding album on which Kris works hard to forge his own style through occasional autobiographical songs.
The self affirming and self explanatory ‘I Don’t Owe Nobody Nothing’ finds him combining a real life story with the kind of unison vocal and guitar favoured by Gwyn Ashton, before he restates his mantra on the hook.
Then there’s the emotive and gospel laden rock-blues ballad ‘Hold On For Tomorrow’ and the closing heavy-duty blues of ‘Watching Over Me’, a heartfelt ode to his late dad. Both are the kind of meaningful songs that give him the potential to carve out his own niche.
‘The Divine And Dirty’ ticks all the right boxes. It rocks hard on a coherent set of songs while drawing on several bluesy influences. The radio friendly hooks and bristling solo’s give the album its drive, and Barras’s fine vocal range adds fervour and passion.
‘The Divine and Dirty’ is a significant step-up in terms of song-writing and performance. It just remains to be seen if there’s room for another blues-rocker with an eye on the main chance in already heavily populated market.
In the meantime, press play and enjoy this impressive slice of contemporary rock-blues. ****
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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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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