Krossborder Rekords [Release date 20.07.18]
Deep Blue Sea are an international blues-rock band who describe themselves as: “new shoots from old roots”, and musically speaking they aren’t too far off the mark.
‘Live It Up’ is a live album that offers a brisk snapshot of a crossover style that straddles rock, blues and funk with traces of Americana.
On songs such the funky ‘The Thrill of It All’ you can feel they are standing on the edge of their own style.
There’s plenty of commitment and a good connection with their festival crowd, though they sometimes trade a brusque ragged approach for the kind of real snap and memorable hooks that would make a lasting impression.
‘Live It Up’ glows promisingly, but doesn’t quite ignite the blue touch paper. It almost feels as if the show has come a little too early for a band that is still finding its feet.
And if some of the songs are works in progress, then numbers such as ‘The Thrill Of It All’ benefits from Spanish guitarist Iago Banet’s big toned solo, while the drive, commitment and intensity of the band makes good use of their festival billing.
Songwriter, bass player and leader Graeme Wheatley dips into the North East’s social economic history for a biographical song about a mining disaster on the heartfelt ”Black Diamond’, and its long term consequences, as explained on the intro to the song.
His deliberately thumbed bass ushers us into a heartfelt blues with deep phrasing from American vocalist Dregas, as the number explodes both lyrically and musically. Swedish drummer Amanda Dahl’s big toms and exuberant cymbal work and Banet’s guitar break helps nail the dynamics of a real life story with a universal emotion.
The band is equally good on the opening ‘Rock Star Status’, a stomp well suited to Dregas’s spiky phrasing. As with much of the material here, the number builds up a tension on the back of Banet’s hard hitting rhythm work, which he resolves himself with a punchy solo.
The subsequent vocal and drum breakdown works perfectly before the band rebuilds the song’s impetus.
They lean into the rockabilly tinged ‘All Our Yesterdays’, as the vocal and guitar joust for sonic primacy. When the guitar solo finally arrives it fills the track with plenty of energy (check out Dahl’s pounding drums), but lacks a resonant tone.
Banet redresses the balance as he brings a chiming quality to his linear guitar lines on ‘Then U Smile’, as well as a cursory nod to Hendrix with a ‘Purple Haze’ lick.
Deep Blue Sea refreshingly focus on songs and meaningful narratives, albeit some of the songs feel as if they are still developing.
The splendidly titled ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ enjoys a funky undertow and eclectic-into- flowery lyrics over some further snatches of Hendrix, while ‘Hole In Your Soul’ offer plenty of intensity but doesn’t linger in the memory.
It’s a very busy song which struggles to accommodate the lyrics and lacks a resolving hook, opting instead for manic finale on which the drums hold things together.
‘Soho By Night’ is a welcome change of pace, featuring Wheatley’s whispered-into-growled vocals with shades of Knofler as his narrative evokes a colourful Soho, before Dregas adds an alternative lead vocal on the chorus to great effect.
The band stretches out on the grit of ‘Birth Of The Blues Pt 2′. The busy rhythm section gives guitarist Banet all the room he needs to add lashing of slide, while ‘Wounded’ is a funky groove with a big finish and some subtle phrasing from Dregas who wraps herself round the song to deliver every last ounce of meaning.
A staggered outro gives the band a hard earned reception to conclude a ‘live from the desk’ recording with plenty of promise for the future.
Review by Pete Feenstra
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