Release Date 08.05.20
Robert Jon and the Wreck were an entirely unknown name to me until last year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair. I didn’t actually see their performance but a pair of writing Daves, Classic Rock’s Ling and my GRTR! reviewing partner Atkinson, both conveyed glowing reports during that heady weekend to pique my interest.
On receiving this new album, I discovered with a mixture of surprise and embarrassment the Southern Californian quintet, led by singer Robert Jon Burrison, have actually been making albums since 2011.
Despite beginning with a Black Crowes-sounding guitar lick in the mould of countless other southern-influenced blues-rockers, the unexpected element of opener ‘Oh Miss Carolina’ is Robert’s vocals. Devoid of a natural southern drawl, they are smooth, almost country-ish, somewhere between Don Henley and Jude Cole.
‘Work it Out’ draws on sixties soul and R n B influences with its horns and girl backing singers, but both ‘Can’t Stand It’ and ‘Do You Remember’ are prime slices of southern rock, the former seeing some very melodious, Allmans-ish guitar work from Henry James and Robert Jon and the latter reminding me a little of The Outlaws ‘There Goes Another Love Song’.
‘Tired of Drinking Alone’ is one of the two stand out cuts for me, with a countryish vibe, Zac Brown Band meets Blackberry Smoke, but with warmer vocals. It is easy to see this as a live anthem on either side of the Atlantic, people swaying along with a beer in the air to its chorus.
The songs are simple, but well structured, and the production sympathetic with each instrument clearly audible and a marvellously uncluttered, spacious feel. The one caveat is that while both ‘This Time Around’ and ‘One Last Time’ are perfectly listenable, they rather replicate what has gone before.
Nevertheless there are a couple of changes in pace with ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ rather grittier in delivery, notably with some slide guitar, and ‘Gold’ a slower paced number with wistful lyrics.
Left to last, the title track is the other highlight. Divided into two parts, the first has an acoustically-driven atmospheric feel but the six minute long 2nd half breaks into a belated jam between Henry and keyboard player Steve Maggiora. Solos are longer than at any point in the album and it concludes with a clash of strings and guitar which reminded me of UFO’s peerless ‘Love to Love’.
The recommendations were correct and then some- they lie squarely in a classic tradition and this is one of the most enjoyable albums I have heard for some time. Now to belatedly rediscover that back catalogue! **** 1/2
Review by Andy Nathan
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Power Plays w/c 5 April 2021 (Mon-Fri)
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DIRTY LACES Breathe (Golden Robot Records)
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