Album review: TOM KILLNER – Get Back Up

Tom Killner - Get Back Up

OTE [Release date 26.10.18]

Imagine an endless library of rock-blues CD’s, or perhaps a laptop full of similar audio files that are all of a certain standard and leave you scratching your head as you listen for something that really stands out.

No such problem with Tom Killner’s ‘Get Back Up’. Not since the southern rock band Otis has an up and coming band made such a big impression on this scribe.

Tom Killner’s ‘Get Back Up’ marks a quantum leap for the passionate Rotherham based, rough round the edges vocalist and guitar player.

He’s transformed himself into a confident band leader, a mighty vocalist and mean guitarist who together with his fine band has cut an outstanding album, full of great songs and a magnificent band performance.

Straddling the thin diving line between southern rock, soulful rock-blues and a jam band quality, this roller coaster of an album is full of ripping intensity, barn burning solos and a vocal that puts him in the vanguard of contemporary rock blues singers.

The key to Killner oeuvre is his effortless phrasing, his use of subtle use of dynamics and above all his effortless range.

‘Get Back Up’ is an album full of roots-rock diversity that is nicely framed by a nuanced co-production by Andy Quinn that supports both the songs and the sonic detail.

It strikes a neat balance between the band’s crisp interplay and an organic warmth that lends itself to some deep grooves, notably on the title track and the big slide figure of ‘Get Out Of Here’.

As a guitarist, Killner is a master of disguise with solos sometimes rise in almost languid fashion before nailing a song without dominating it.

The album opens with ‘When Love Comes For You’ – a straight -to-the-vein double riff-driven, guitar and organ assault that makes way for a vocal worthy of Warren Haynes stature.

It’s a tub thumping opener with a big sonic sweep and a sudden a change pace before a return to deep intensity.

The following ‘Groove Shaker’ cast him in he role of a younger Joe Cocker on a more relaxed funky groove, over percussive cymbal splashes and a subsequent gentle drop-down that focuses on his vocal.

It explores the kind of funky feel that the band later revisits on the beautiful stuttering rhythm of ‘Devil Woman’. The arrangement builds up a tension that is offset by a descending organ riff and short, but sizzling, big toned southern rock guitar break.

‘Working Man’ is one of 5 Killner/Paul Butcher collaborations and is an outstanding southern rock anthem predicated on some lovely band interplay and another great vocal on a slow ascending guitar solo and a subtle acoustic drop down.

The title track is a big groove with a layered feel as Killner leans into his solo with gusto.

‘Get Back Up’ is an album with real drive, soulful depth, unbridled intensity and songs that reach out to the listener.

‘Get Out Of Here’ is another sultry groove full of enveloping slide over a whip crack rhythm section. The extended ‘So Long’ is a superb keyboard driven bluesy love song. Killner employs a slightly different vocal attack, backed by ethereal bv’s and some intricate piano and guitar interplay on a slow build that leads to melodic solo resolution.

The tracks mesh together seamlessly as Killner’s emotive vocals hovers over a band that sound as if its been together for years.

The key to the album is the way the band brings spark to well worked arrangements and Killner’s ability to phrase from the depths of his soul. Then there’s the thoughtful sequencing that sees the Grateful Dead meets Santana instrumental ‘Colibri’ which take us on a west coast jam. The band slip into a delicious mix of honey toned guitar, deft percussion and a killer organ solo from Wesley Brook that is criminally cut short by a sudden fade.

No matter, it’s a master stroke of track in the middle of an album that keeps asking the listener questions. One great track leads to another on an album that flows eloquently and cleverly glues together old school values with a contemporary feel on refreshingly diverse material.

The band rocks hard on ‘Don’t Waste My Time’, complete with significant bv’s  from Megan Franchez as the band stretches out in muscular fashion, and then they bring sharp contrast on the stripped down acoustic intro to the slow building ballad ‘Be Home Soon’.

And all too soon its nearly all over, save for the piano and acoustic led finale that leads us into a broken relationship song called ‘Memories Of You’.

It’s a brave understated finish to an album that focuses on Tom’s aching vocal and the overall the quality of the songs. And it’s the combination of consistently fine song writing and ebullient playing that makes this album such a breath of fresh air.

The 22 year old Killner sings as if he’s really lived a life and the band sounds as if they’ve waited all their life for the red button to record.

‘Get Back Up’ is the kind of album that bigger names than Tom Killner spend most of their career working towards. Its fresh, vital, intense, soulful and rocks hard. Go out and buy it. ***** 

Review by Pete Feenstra

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