Bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band etc have always held prominent positions within my record collection, despite my preferred music being more artrock and punk based. So it’s no great surprise that I find myself for the most part really enjoying this debut, eponymous album from BLACK BART.
What IS surprising however, is that these four guys come not from America’s Deep South, but from the South Coast of England! All twelve tracks have a real air of Country Rock authenticity about them, whilst all the time drawing influence from other genres such as basic rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass and blues. They do sound the real deal!
The production on this album is excellent with the sound crystal clear and well balanced. And with the band recording all the tracks in ‘live’ takes, there is a definite vibrancy about the music.
Opening song ‘Broken Like A Mirror’ is pretty standard Country fare, with nice clear-cut guitar and tight harmonies. ‘I’m Going To Jail’ is perhaps my favourite and sure to be a ‘live’ favourite. The chugging guitar and bluesy feel is almost Rory Gallagher inspired and though obviously not in the same league as my personal guitar hero, the guitar solos are indeed worthy of mention.
‘I Believe’ is slower in pace, and still with a distinct Blues feel, while ‘Town To Town’ carries on that particular mood, but with the vocals more ‘spoken’ in places as vocalist Simon Stanley-Ward almost narrates the story. (I should say at this point that he actually has a very distinctive singing voice.) Again, some lovely guitar work is incorporated throughout. ‘Reflection’ slows even further, but sounds a little meaner, and has a great little ‘hook’ with the backing vocals in the chorus.
‘Don’t Tell Me Anymore’ is the prerequisite ‘slow’ song. It kind of wafted over me a little. Still, every album’s gotta have one! ‘Come Back Home’ carries on that moody feel, but this time with more emphasis on the piano. and with more balls! (A little Bob Dylan reflection on this one, perhaps?)
‘Turnaround (Still Looks The Same)’ takes us back to the Country feel – but more in the ways of early Eagles, I’d say. ‘Home By The River’ rocks it up a notch, with nice guitar picking and some sort of ‘West Coast’ harmonies. ‘Song For A Friend’ is the longest track on the album at over five and a half minutes. It’s like a heavy blues type song, again with Dylan-esque vocals almost narrating the story and backed with lengthy guitar pieces, much in the format of mid Seventies Classic Rock. It’s almost like this is BLACK BART’S ‘Free Bird’ or ‘Stairway To Heaven’ moment!
‘Freedom Blues’ does what it says on the tin basically, although there is a bit jazz / swing built into the Blues fabric, while closing song ‘Who Made The Water’ ends the album with an injection of pace, chant-a-long gang choruses, zippy guitar and bouncy rhythm section.
Clear, distinctive and unique vocals, great guitar playing, and a pounding rhythm section that could mix with the best – all in all, this is a pretty classy album with a ‘value for money’ running time of fifty-four minutes.
(Released through Faustuss International on 25th October 2010)