CBO Music UK [Release date: 13.05.18]

It’s rare you come across a top class big band blues outfit with real pedigree when the front man is relatively speaking unknown,

Stoke On Trent’s bass playing, vocalist Chris Bevington didn’t front a band until in the autumn of his career, but the wait has obviously been worthwhile.

He first came to my attention with his 2014 ‘Chris Bevington and Friends’ album, on which he impressively covered songs by the likes of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Walter Trout, while his guitarist Jim Kirkpatrick (FM/Bernie Marsden) is always worth checking out.

Indeed, it’s Kirkpatrick and producer/drummer Scott Ralph who penned the material here and have exceed all expectations on a big production full of strong songs and fiery playing.

‘Cut And Run’ has already made its mark at the top of the British Independent Blues radio charts and refreshingly stands on its own merits, without the need of any PR hype.

The album is cleverly topped and tailed by two Little Feat influenced tracks, of which the vim and vigour of  ‘It’s Not Too Late’ cleverly reflects the song title , while the closing ‘The Bad Guy’ is heavily influenced by Feat’s Dixie Chicken.

Excellent as they are, both tracks bear little relation to the rocking big band blues that fills the rest of the album.

CBO are the triumphant sum of their parts. Chris himself is a solid bass player with an expressive transatlantic vocal that gives the blues songs their pith. He extends his fine range with some expressive soulful phrasing over the course of 11 tracks that coalesce in the old fashioned sense of an album.

There’s real spark and stylistic diversity here, which only dips slightly on ‘Aint Got Nobody To Love’ – a dobro into big band, riff-led piece with significant bv’s, and the obviously titled ‘Coming Down With The Blues.’  Both tracks find the band at full tilt – even including a trumpet solo on the latter – but lyrically they both lack impact.

No matter, ‘Cut And Run’ is an excellent album that breathes fresh life into the big band blues scene. Listen to the tub thumping,  horn pumping and fast repeated hook of ‘Got To Know’ and you could be listening to Delbert McClinton at his best.

The title track is also an outstanding arrangement, moving from a down-home intro with doctored vocals into an archetypal quiet-to-loud dynamic, on a big layered stomp with a slide-led frenzy.

It’s rare for a band to generate such unfettered energy and feel in a studio setting, let alone in this age of digital drop-ins, but this track is an exemplar of just how good they must be live.

There’s subtle contrast too, as they follow the relaxed funky groove of ‘It Ain’t Easy’, with the spiky guitar fashioned ‘She Ran Away To The City’. A very cool horn arrangement with beefy stabs evokes Steely Dan, while Chris’s vocal emulates Lance Lopez’s grit.

Then there’s the hard rocking ‘Rollin’ which gives the band’s Danish counterparts Thorbjorn Risager & The Black Tornado a run for their money.

CBO rock hard, swing exuberantly and shuffle effortlessly – especially on ‘Sing Myself To Sleep’ – and explore heartfelt blues balladry on ‘Won’t Day Dream No More.’

It all sounds like fun. The material is fresh, the arrangements are razor sharp and the playing is shot through with real vitality.

Chris Bevington’s original musical vision is nailed by a splendid 9 piece band and framed by Scott Ralph’s seamless production. The combination of good songs, hard driving energy and a pristine sonic quality makes for a highly recommended rip roaring album. ****½

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00

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