Taller Records [Release date 01.11.18]
‘Mahogany Drift’ is an exciting new album by RHR (Troy Redfern, Jack J. Hutchinson and Mike Ross), a potential new riff heavy powerhouse super group with southern roots rock and blues antecedents.
From the sepia tinged cover to the nicely roughhewn jangling guitars, we’re into a new take on familiar roots rock. The collective musical style such as it is, stretches the musical template from Redfern’s biblical gothic imagery and Hutchinson’s husky melodic country tinged melodies through to Ross’s brusque, riff heavy take on Americana.
‘Mahogany Drift’ has some sparkling moments, decent songs, spirited playing and essential guitar playing, but it’s still a work in progress. It’s a debut album influenced by the likes of The Black Crowes, with a triple take on exuberant roots rock that isn’t quite the sum of its parts.
Indeed, the best moments come on the two jammed out guitar-led instrumentals, which are split in two separately titled tracks, ’Mahogany’ and ‘Drift’. The former fades much too soon, but enjoys a coda on the more expansive ‘Drift’.
They both work well in the context of an album that draws us in on the back of the bone crunching riffs of Mike Ross’s opening ‘She Painted The Moon’.
For all its southern rock pretensions, the colourfully titled narrative driven song has a lovely ragged Faces feel and even a Stones ‘Fool To Cry’ style faux falsetto.
The guitar work carries the album as a whole and the three front line players find a workable equilibrium, on an 11 track set that falls just short of taking that defining step to forge a true band identity.
As it is, we have three linked, but contrasting efforts from all three guitarists, which suggests that though they all drink from the same well, they ultimately water their own garden.
The end result is an album that makes the most of it’s diversity under a broad stylistic umbrella, but doesn’t quite nail a signature sound.
It sounds like an album that was cut quickly with an energetic focussed attack, but they might have taken a bit more time to let it come together more organically.
No matter, ‘Mahogany Drift’ rocks hard and benefits from the Keith Richard influenced riffs and Dan Baird style gnarled vocal on Hutchinson’s catchy chanted hook on ‘Rapture’, as he rocks out country style.
Redfern opens his account with ‘Home On Judgement Day’, featuring a shuffle drum and acoustic intro with a rasping angst ridden vocal, on a Zeppelin style groove that moves to a defining solo.
And so to the first part of the jam instrumental ‘Mahogany’, which opens with lovely percussive pattern and snaking guitar line. Had it been allowed to run its natural course without a sudden fade it would have anchored the album as a whole.
However, it works well in a different way, being split in two to create a clever musical void that the later ‘Drift’ fills superbly with 2 minutes of bliss, as the whole project coalesces seamlessly.
Producer Mike Ross has obviously thought about how to bring the tree main artistsic strands together by adding little spacy electronic studio links.
There’s a breathless feel to ‘Ghost Hound Rider’ which choogles along southern rock style, and veers down the highway like The Doobie Brothers, before a 2nd solo injects an extra push.
The track gives the album a noticeable lift, before being juxtaposed by a characteristically heavy-duty Redfern sludgy rhythm on ‘Satisfied’. Such is the intensity of the track that it feels claustrophobic with its repeated lyrics, clicking tambourine, and fuzz. It’s a busy track that builds a tension which is belatedly resolved by a broken glass sample.
The subsequent languid intro and melodic sweep of Jack J. Hutchinson’s ‘Solemn Song’ is the perfect foil. The combination of fuzz guitar and soaring slide re-emphasizes the melody as the song builds to a big uplifting finish.
And as the album heads into the second jammed out instrumental ‘Drift’, you can feel the disparate elements giving way to a more coherent whole, suggesting that the band should already be thinking about writing together for the second album.
Hutchinson’s ‘Holler’ has a much cleaner sound and a Byrds-into-Eagles style vocal intro, with a sinewy guitar tone that wraps itself round the harmonies to great effect.
Given a slighter fatter guitar tone it could be The Allman Brothers, except there’s an acoustic solo and further great harmonies on a song that frames Jack’s husky timbre against a melodic backdrop.
And almost in line with the subliminal guitar parts, we’re into the acoustic slide of Mike Ross’s ‘Leviathan’, on a stripped down piece with some lovely accompanying earthy guitar lines that mirror his vocal.
Troy Refern rounds things off with the more expansive ‘Miles Away’, featuring a beautiful mid-number climactic slide solo and a hustle and bustle that leads into a big hook.
At the journey’s end, ‘Mahogany Drift’ does feel like the band have started to find their feet. It’s never easy incorporating three different styles into one musical palette. As it is, they generate enough spark to bring fresh impetus to the southern rock genre. Their second album should reveal what they are capable of, when hopefully they will sit down and collaborate as a true band ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
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