Album review: SAVOY BROWN – Ain’t Done Yet

Pete Feenstra chatted to Kim Simmonds and played tracks from the new album for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio.  First broadcast 26 July 2020

Savoy Brown - Ain't Done Yet

Quarto Valley Records [Release date 28.08.20]

‘Ain’t Done Yet’ is Savoy Brown’s 41st album on which the indefatigable Kim Simmonds plays to his strengths.  He mixes some intricate-to-intense playing, while his trusty rhythm section of bassist  Pat De Salvo and drummer Garnet Grimm dig deep for the grooves.

‘Ain’t Done Yet’, suggests he’s still got plenty in the tank in terms of creatively and energy. This album showcases his chameleon like qualities when it come to the blues. If the band has changed musical directions down the years, ‘Ain’t Done Yet’ adds a contemporary sheen to Simmonds myriad blues influences.

The opening rock-blues dirge of ‘All Gone Wrong’ is actually lyrically out of step with the album title, and the heavy-duty rhythm track almost mirrors the pessimistic outlook of the narrator.

We can only assume Simmonds is using a songwriter’s license to project himself into another’s shoes, because musically speaking this album sparkles.

It’s also one of a brace of reflective songs and though he’s still strongly focused on creating new music, he’s not averse to exploring meditative subjects. On ‘Borrowed Time’ he underpins his brooding subject matter with a quavering tone courtesy of an analog Leslie simulator.

And its his use on different tonal colours and textures throughout the album that keeps things fresh and interesting.

‘Feel Like A Gypsy’ may well be the album highlight. It subtly combines the Latino feel of Carlos Santana with a sultry JJ Cale style groove framed by Peter Green style svelte elegance.

His half-spoken lyrics add to the understated feel and push the focus squarely to his intricate guitar playing. His solo threads its way through the heart of the song and rises gently to fill the track with some expressive playing full of feel. The track clocks in at over 6 minutes, as Kim stretches out over some subtle percussive accompaniment.

It’s the moment when the band coalesces seamlessly as Kim works his magic in a mix of dreamy notes, occasional growled accents and upper register artistry. This is the sort of track that provides a timely reminder of one of the most enduring guitar heroes of our era.

And just as you wondering how he will follow that, he glances over his shoulder to the days of Lonesome Dave Peverett with a tough rocking boogie called ‘Jaguar Car’, on which he adds some distant sounding harp and slide.

The title track feels effortless and isn’t quite distinctive enough to update the band’s dependable style, but it choogles along pleasantly and like the later ‘Rocking In Louisiana’ probably could have done without the call and response vocals.

You could argue that this album offers no surprises, except for the fact that it all flows consistently well. Simmonds revels in a guitar master class that fully supports the songs rather than dominates them.

Listen for example to the John Fogerty influenced ‘River On The Rise’, on which his luscious slide lines give the song its plaintive feel.

Then there’s the down-home dobro feel of ‘Rocking In Louisiana’ which enjoys a lightness of touch that has enough of a undertow without the need for a call and response section.

Simmonds vocals work particularly well as he doesn’t try to sing outside his range. He knows when to emphasize a phrase, but for the most part settles into a relaxed observational style that allows his guitar playing to do the talking.

The most significant thing about this album is the way the set feels like the organic result of a life spent cranking out the riffs and churning out the usual rock blues narratives. This leads him to a few wry observations tempered by a handful of bristling rockers of which ‘Soho Girl’ is the heaviest with a grungy riff-driven drone.

Unsurprisingly, he finishes the album with a clean toned instrumental called ‘Crying Guitar’, which again has echoes of Peter Green, with plenty of space and a ringing tone over a subtle rhythm section.

A sudden change of tonal emphasis gives the song an unexpected lift. Simmonds reaches for that extra bit of emotional intensity on a reflecting ending to an enjoyable album that suggests his creative spirit still burns bright. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 22 May.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 19 June 2022.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT 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 21 June 2022.

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