Taller Records (Release date: 30.10.20)
Talented Brighton-based blues/americana merchant Mike Ross is back with a follow up to last year’s ‘The Clovis Limit, Pt 1’. Durham-born Ross has been a busy chap, releasing albums in each of the last three years as well as gigging and recording with the band RHR alongside Troy Redfern and Jack J Hutchinson.
Given that this is the second in the series, it’s probably wise to explain that The Clovis Limit is a reference to an Americana record store that science-fiction writer William Gibson invents in post-apocalyptical Portobello Road setting for the novel ‘The Peripheral’.
‘Pt 2’ in the Clovis series is a fine album plundering plenty of fuzzed up blues riffs and swaggering southern rock moves, with many high points and enough variety to keep the casual listener on their toes. Despite the reference to the fantasy Americana store, there are only few tracks here that mine the Americana or Country seam. This is a very different beast to the mellow, perhaps sedate ‘Pt 1’.
We kick off with ‘Thanks A Lot’, a guitar-driven thing showcasing changes of time and style, switching between a lugubrious riff, a cosy boogie and then a blues shuffle. ‘None of Your Business’ follows up with tighter lines and a strong, catchy, almost commercial vocal performance. The filthy slide guitar on ‘The Only Place You Ever Take Me is Down’ is gorgeous and when the organ comes in to take up the slack after the second chorus we are in nectar to honey territory right through to the home run.
Ross is a multi-instrumentalist. His guitar and vocal talents are well to the fore on this album. But he has also contributed the majority of the bass, drums, organ and percussion. Drummer Darren Lee makes an appearance here and there, as does Ricky Kinrade on bass. Otherwise it’s the Mike Ross show.
The same goes for the compositions. All Ross’s work, save for ‘Hammer’, recorded originally by Mother Sugar, which here features a beautiful fluid guitar solo, miles away from the gritty material that surrounds it.
There are a couple of instrumentals. ‘Tell Jerry’ is filled with sharp guitar lines and a funked up bass groove, whereas ‘Unforgiven’ is just a bit too close to The Allman Brothers’ ‘Jessica’ for the comfort of this reviewer.
‘The Loser’ was the first single from the album, and an odd choice because of the shift of focus to an unrepresentative country feel. It’s only temporary. ‘Leviathan’ builds from the sci-fi inspired synth transitions that link all the tracks into a slow-burning slide guitar swamp crawl. Hogjaw, anyone? Love it.
‘Don’t Say A Word’ takes us back to infectious, brash blues territory with blurred riffs, electric piano, organ and shots of wiry lead guitar. Album closer ‘ Shoot You If You Run’ is musically in a similar vein to ‘Leviathan’, but lyrically is the most ambitious on the album, tackling the Nazi propaganda peddled by Lord Haw-Haw in World War II. The closing four minutes of this nine-minute ramble are an unnecessary nurdle-fest played over distorted radio broadcasts, presumably of Haw-Haw himself.
A diverse album, then. Ignoring the odd weaker moments and a lack of real cohesion, it is layered with strong material. The overall feel and especially the guitar tone on the rockier tracks is a proper thrill and the best moments are lifted by some wonderful playing and fine singing. Plenty to like here. ****
Review by Dave Atkinson
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