Album review: GLAS – Blue

Glas - Blue

The Last Music company [Release date 30.03.18]

South Wales band Glas describe themselves as a: “blues rock n’ roll roots band”, which is a handy ‘catch all’ banner with which they explore their naturally eclectic style.

Glas is that rare thing, a band who pursue their own style in the blues genre, which provides them with a number of related musical options.

‘Blue’ is a slow burning album built with a subtle sparse production. It reveals itself gradually, via guitarist James Oliver’s tonal colours and a fluid rhythm section that is essential to band’s ability to step things up at the drop of a hat with some scintillating playing.

Award winning guest harp player Jason Ricci announces his sumptuous tone on ‘Blackwood Boogie’, an opening languid shuffle that levers us into the band’s more incisive style.

He’s also a towering presence on the 60’s R&B sounding ‘Sky Turned Red Pt One’, as he extends his notes, while David John adds one of his best vocals alongside James Oliver’s defining slide guitar burst.

On ‘You Make Me Mad’, Ricci emulates the John Popper’s rapid note phrasing, a style he’s long since made his own. The band’s intricate interplay on some fast shifting tempos confirms their road tested ability.

Dieselbilly king and former Commander Cody guitarist Bill Kirchen adds a big filmic whammy bar tremolo on ‘Translucent Love’ – one of the few songs on which David John struggles with his vocal – and which given a greater sense of irony could be Sparks.

John David (Love Sculpture, George Harrison, Bruce Springsteen etc) glues everything together with an intuitive production. He opts for a clean and dry sound that always supports the song in terms of sonic clarity and subtle dynamics.

All the elements are in place for the band to make an impact, which they do with plenty to spare, except what’s missing is real song craft.

Their true calling is that of a rockabilly band with blues antecedents, while in their more adventurous moments they think nothing of referencing country, swing, boogie and even psychedelia.

They spark on ‘Revenge Freak’, they boogie on the aptly titled ‘Blackwood Boogie’ they sound like The Yardbirds on the intro to ‘Fractured Man’, they groove on ‘Keep On Running’, they shuffle on ‘You Make Me Mad’, they swing on ‘My Favourite Colour Green’ and they rock energetically throughout.

But if there’s one main criticism of this album, it’s simply that they sometimes sound a bit emotionally detached, which is countered by their musical ebullience. Songs such as the rockabilly overdrive of ‘Revenge Freak’ almost sinks under the weight of its own word play, while ‘Other Half’ has a vague hot club feel with a compressed George Harrison slide sound that gives the track a claustrophobic feel.

On the upside, ‘Keep On Running’ (not the Spencer Davis song) is game changing track with a welcome sense of measured intensity that is too often lacking in their very precise and clinical style. John’s vocal phrasing is in perfect synch with the rhythm track, as James Oliver’s solo soars over a ripping snare.

Other highlights include the rockabilly riffery and intricate guitar lines of ‘You Make Me Mad’, as Jason Ricci adds some typically frenetic harp playing. ‘Something Wrong With The War’ is a speed ball rocker with an incredible bass line on a short, sharp outing that comes close to defining their style.

The Deke Leonard style opening riff of ‘Sky Turned Red Pt. 2’, gives way to a mid-tempo groove, as the band stretches out into psychedelia complete with guitar squalls and a fade out that comes far too soon.

They are in their element on the retro rockabilly feel ‘My Favourite Colour (Green)’, all twang and faux 50’s bv’s that would make both Brian Setzer and Steve Gibbons smile.

‘Blue’ isn’t a breakthrough album, but it is strong enough to keep people coming back to check out both the band and the album which is a work in progress.  ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra

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