Scott McKeon chatted to Pete Feenstra about his album ‘New Morning’ for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. First broadcast 20 June 2021.
Idaho Records [Release date 23.04.21]
‘New Morning’ is Scott McKeon’s first solo album for 11 years. He’s been busy with some high profile session work and this album is his creative attempt to re-establish his own musical profile.
It’s a ‘live in the studio’ guitar-driven album, full of deep grooves, cool dynamics, intricate riffs, plenty of spontaneity and an array of tones, all glued together by drummer Jeremy Stacey’s unrelenting energy.
There’s rock, blues, funk, electro and he’s never too far away from Jeff Beck’s mid 70’s fusion, albeit with updated tones.
And like Beck he’s stronger on playing and jamming than songwriting. With the exception of 4 tracks, this is mainly an instrumental album on which McKeon’s rhythmic dexterity, variety of solos and dirt sounding exploratory tones also reminds me of Doyle Bramhall 11.
He is unafraid to delve into the esoteric moments to shape his own rock-blues niche, while vocalist Gavin Conder’s 3 vocal contributions – particularly on the intricate fractured funk of ‘Third Eye Witness’ – helps push the music in a more contemporary indie direction.
McKeon’s use of distorted tones evokes both JD Simo and Gary Clarke Jr. And it’s that exploratory feel that lies at the heart of an album that constantly searches for deep grooves, inspiration and the sort of magical moments to be found on ‘Everything Is Nothing’.
The latter is built on an infectious rhythm track and a Keith Richard style riff is subsumed by an ascending drone riff and Gavin Conder’s nasal vocal. The whole track flows naturally into McKeon’s fluid fuzz toned solo, locked in by the exhilarating rhythm section of Rocco Palladino and Jeremy Stacey.
It sounds as if the band had waited for this moment to simply let go, hit a sweet spot and tap into the subconscious.
‘Crossfader’ is a mix of late 60’s organ-led psychedelia, rhythmic wah-wah and chiming ethereal tones, as it imperceptibly evolves into a Latino groove with a perfunctory fade.
This album could have stolen the old Hawkwind ‘In Search of Space’ title, because at times McKeon tellingly takes his finger off the strings and lets the grooves bubble up organically.
This is no more so than on ‘Fego’ on which he teases out some expressive notes that drip with real feel.
‘Take Me Back’ has a similar sensibility with his note flurries being an object session in use of space, time and taste, while Gavin Condor adds just enough husk on his vocal to amplify its bluesy inflection.
The album as a whole moves from understatement to outright intensity and does so in the course of one song on the opening ‘Fight No More’.
There’s a palpable Hendrix and fusion feel, as McKeon’s ferocious echoed squalls and sonic arcs are tempered by a Mahavishnu chanted mantra.
The song bursts at the seams with a J.D. Simo like intensity, though the muddy mix sounds as if it saved the amps from exploding.
The jammed out title track enjoys a languid Hendrix slow build with a slight suggestion of The Beatles ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ and even a hint of Zappa with the use of vibes.
There’s a significant contrast between McKeon’s sumptuous slide playing and this growling lead solo. The latter fills the track with a post psyche bluesy feel and a Trower like distorted drone. It suddenly drops down from an enveloping wall of sounds via a Zeppelin ‘Dazed & Confused’ riff into melodic Hawaiian guitar outro.
‘New Morning’ lives up to its loose conceptual theme in as much as there are no real songs here. McKeon opts for loose limbed jams with fleeting emotive feels and occasional inspirational moments, as on the closing ‘Take Me Back’.
It’s an album that demands plenty of repeat plays to absorb all the stylistic shifts, layered sounds, an array of tonal colours and consistent intricate band interplay.
‘Zapruder’ is a good example of how the album explores different options, opening in retro cool fashion with Ross Stanley’s layered Hammond, Stacey’s subtle brushed stokes and McKeon’s clean picked jazzy notes. It rises and falls either side of some riff driven bluster and a majestic ascending solo, before an awkward tempo change at 4.43 suggests impatience.
Ultimately you will either be drawn to that loose feel or the opposite. The fact that the band occasionally feels as if its approaching a precipice gives ‘New Morning’ its sense of freedom, adventure and excitement.
In musical terms it also means we can enjoy the journey as much as the destination itself.
‘New Morning’ offers much to the discerning rock fan, though outside of the guitar heads, Scott McKeon might have to wait just a little while longer for his profile to hit the mainstream. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Josh Taerk’s latest Sunday Session was streamed on Sunday 20 March 2022 at 21:00 GMT (16:00 EST). Josh’s next session is 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 8 May 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 3 May 2022.
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