Album review: EDDIE 9V – Little Black Flies

Eddie 9V - Little Black Flies

Ruf Records [Release date 28.05.21]

The explosive Eddie 9 Volt (real name Brooks Mason), is a man on a mission. He’s the personification of a post Covid cathartic release.

After all, what is there left to do after a year of inactivity, but to just plug in and play and let that pent up energy explode in the studio

That said, you also need good songs and he delivers 9 of them, plus 3 covers that fit his blue collar blues.

Ruf records have a reputation for signing up young talent, but also occasionally artists with their own USP, such as The Imperial Crowns, Victor Wainwright and Si Cranstoun.

Eddie is a worthy addition to the label’s roster, as he digs deep for feel, while his drink fuelled ‘live in the studio’ session leads to some heartfelt barn burners,

He happily evokes echoes of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, eschewing effects pedals and just blazing away from the wood.

He could have called this album ‘No Gimmicks’, but that would be too overlook his soulful antecedents, built on deep grooves, flanked by judicious horns and ignited by Eddie’s own guitar driven urgency.

He’s a restless soul, well suited to the concept of a blues party. He’s a distant musical relative of the ‘plug in and play’ approach of Hound Dog Taylor.

Just like his stage name suggests, he’s is durable, consistent and a no frills, gritty performer in search of authenticity. He probably worries about nothing more than occasional mic placements before exploring our collective musical past for something new and fresh.

From the loose count-in and opening rap of the title track you know that this is an album dominated by a larger than life personality, backed by great playing and THAT voice.

The title track echoes Dylan, but Eddie 9V take sit to new horizons with an unexpected noir-filled narrative. He sings it with an almost cartoon like vocal that hovers above a locked in soulful groove, built on a sumptuous bass as part of a layered sound.

It’s a cinematic opening that in any other hands might be hard to follow. Not so Eddie, as he revels in a loose one-shot deal, by shouting out: “Hey we’re rolling, here we go,” before levering us into the slide-driven ‘She Got Some Money’, predicted on Brandon Boone’s thumping bass.

He keeps up the relentless pace with the guitar and harp driven shuffle of ‘Dog Me Around’.  The incendiary minimalist approach occasionally evokes George Thorogood, but Eddie 9V offers more than mere bluster and a handful of licks, he seems to inhabit the life style he sings about.

He almost stays faithful to Albert King’s Travellin’ Man’, except for the vocal squalls and intense piercing guitar tone, offset by lashing of Chad Mason’s organ.

The lyrically enquiring ‘3am in Chicago’, opens with an almost meditative mood and is joined by harmony vocalist Mandi Strachota, before he tells is he’s: “Bound and determined to find meaning within’.

On the outstanding love song ‘Reach Into Your Heart’, he teeters on the edge of an emotional precipice before launching himself into a deep soulful groove that chugs like a contented train wagon, as a combination of intricately woven guitar and harp are glued together by a smooth Hammond.

Once again it’s his impassioned vocal that gives the track its emotional and visceral impact.

The grooves become funkier on ‘Miss James’ and the lascivious ‘Puttin’ The Kids To Bed’, either side of getting low-down on a John Lee Hooker style ‘Back On My Feet’.

It’s on the slow blues of ‘Columbus Zoo Blues’ that he really impresses. He turns a mundane blues on its head with a mix of surreal lyrics, intricate guitar and fine band interplay, as he raps manically, telling us: “I’m gonna bust out of this zoo.”

In fact it’s something he threatens all the way through the album. And having resolved his own inner demons at the zoo, he adds an extra celebratory Jimmy Reed bonus, breathing fresh life into ‘You Don’t Have To Go’, helped immeasurably by Jackson Allen’s lung busting harp, which is curiously deep in the mix.

The after hours jam feel serves to illuminate what’s gone before.

Eddie 9V and his band have done all the hard work, and now they can relax. They do so with a final exhilarating burst of unfettered high-energy blues on which Eddie metaphorically lives up to his dependable 9V moniker.

He has the durability to power a suitably retro transistor radio, but also the spark to ignite an unforgettable contemporary blues party. *****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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