Gulf Coast Records [Release date 04.10.19]
When Pete Feenstra reviewed British blues duo Ron Sayer Jr and Charlotte Joyce’s debut Hard To Please in 2013 he observed that contemporary roots music had never sounded so good, and had the album been recorded by an Austin band or indeed cut in any other regional musical hot bed of America, it would probably be revered and spoken about in hushed tones.
With Sayer something of a ‘guitarist’s guitarist’ with a funk blues style soaked in the chops of Jimi Hendrix and the late night tones of Gary Moore, and with vocal coach Joyce every inch a blues siren – having worked with the likes of Paul Jones, Dr Feelgood, and Joanne Shaw Taylor – it’s something of a mystery why the pair – now on their third album haven’t featured more prominently on the GRTR! radar.
Marking a new phase for the band – having signed to Mike Zito’s Texas based Gulf Coast Records, and with Joyce now providing all vocals (as well as Hammond B3 and piano), leaving Sayer free to deliver guitar, guitar, and more guitar – Makes You Stronger is nevertheless a case of evolution, rather a change of direction.
It’s an unquestionably classy, retro affair (and always nice to see sepia engrained cover art emblazoned with the word ‘Stereo’) that plays well to the current female fronted blues revival movement led by the likes of Elles Bailey, Erja Lyyttinen, and Rebecca Downes (to name but just a few of the leading lights in the field).
And if any of those artists tick any boxes for you, then Makes You Stronger is an album you should check out, covering a range of bases from funk, rock, ‘late night’ soul, gospel and country with Joyce’s vocals among some of the finest you’ll hear, and Sayer’s playing evocative and tasteful in equal measure.
If there’s a criticism, it’s the lack of a real ‘killer’ signature tune and a USP – I suspect in a blindfold test many would find it hard to differentiate many of the aforementioned artists and their contemporaries. ***1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
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