Gulf Coast [Release date 24.07.20]
In keeping with the gumbo tradition of Louisiana cuisine, Louisiana Hall Of Fame inductees Le Roux’s brand new album ‘One Of Those Days’ is a musical hotch-potch of all that’s good about Louisiana roots music and southern rock in general.
It’s an album that updates the band’s long and varied career stretching back to 1978.
What they offer in 2020 is some timeless songcraft, stellar playing, glimpses of inspired jamming and an intuitive vocalist Jeff McCarty who really gets inside the songs.
If you include special guest and backing singers there are 17 people on this recording. But if attention to detail is everything, it’s never at the expense of spontaneity.
What’s missing perhaps is a defining step into the future, though the cool reworked funky arrangements of ‘Lifeline Redux’ does suggest an updated style, with echo laden guitar effects on a jangling track with a significant electronic feel.
For the rest, the band’s best moments come of a handful of Jim Odom and Tony Haselden songs which are rooted in Southern Rock, but open-ended enough to offer the enduring combo different musical avenues.
In years gone by at least two of these songs would have ended up on a best of Southern rock compilation album. As it is, this album will still have a strong niche appeal.
They sensibly diversify their material on the album as a whole, mixing some hard-edged funk and occasional second line rhythms with soulful ballads and even an unexpected instrumental which in the hands of another band would sound great, but given the high quality of this album it almost sounds like a filler.
At times ‘One Of Those Days’, sounds like a cross between The Doobie Brothers, the Allman Brothers and The Marshall Tucker Band, underpinned by the band’s own Louisiana roots.
Listen for example, to the arresting opening title track which sounds like a classic Doobie Brothers track we somehow must have missed.
It’s another Odom and Haselden composition given the perfect framework by veteran producer Jeff Glixxman to ensure that everything burns brightly with a pristine sonic quality.
Jim McCarty’s vocals are superb throughout, the guitars resonate and the afore mentioned percussion on the title track adds an extra dimension, as the guitars soar and take the song into the regions of the anthemic on a beautiful opener.
They follow that with a smart change of musical style on the gospel tinged ‘call and response’ cover of a Dustin Ransom song, ‘No Ones Gonna Love Me (Like The Way You Do’. They still manage to turn it into a southern rock track with lashing of guitar and harmonies.
In many respects this album doesn’t so much ask the question can the band still rock, as can they still be relevant?
And given the high standing of contemporary roots music and singer-songwriters out of Nashville and the recent upsurge in recycled southern rock, the answer is a resounding yes.
Another great Odom/Hasleden composition ‘Don’t Rescue Me’ is full of incisive guitars and cool harmonies and can favourably be set against anything the current Skynyrd band has produced.
And if ‘After All’ is somewhat out of step with the rest of the album’s thrust, they quickly redress the balance with the stop-time, gnawing riff rocker that is ‘Nothing Left To Lose’.
There’s shades of Free meeting Warren Haynes, while a Jim’s primal James Brown style screech ushers in another brief jam featuring Haselden on slide.
‘One Of Those Days’ works so well simply because everyone supports the whole to the best of their abilities. The sudden harmony guitar parts, the timeless aching vocals, the subtle bv’s, the locked down funk and contrasting melodic rock swells are the very elements that always catch the ear of the classic rock fan.
It’s all there on arguably the album’s finest track ‘The Song Goes On’. It sounds like the Allmans’ again on archetypal exposition of southern rock, full of chiming guitars, a weathered lead vocal, supporting harmonies and a lived in road narrative: “I grew up on the road less travelled.”
Rockers of a certain age will stop in their tracks on hearing this Marshall Tucker style song with its subtle interwoven guitar parts.
For the rest, they wisely lean on their Louisiana roots for a second line Little Feat style ‘Lucy Anna’, which is big on harmonies and a booming hook as the band celebrate their culture, their state and their music.
‘Sauce Picquant’ is a funky instrumental, which would sound great in the hands of any other band, except that such is the standard here that you might expect more.
‘One Of Those Days’ sounds like a timeless southern rock album that a few generations ago would have offered the band a key to the kingdom. As it is, they are still making well honed southern rock within the context of their durable Louisiana roots-rock influences.
It’s well worth buying and though it may not offer them mass market appeal, there’s enough stellar tracks here to keep on chipping away at the top table of the heritage rock market. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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