Quintessential British R&B With a Country Heart.
My father used to have a saying that I now use; “God acts in mysterious ways” and that may sum up why I selected this album to listen to last week.
First of all the band name is a bit of a mouthful isn’t it and the sleeve isn’t exactly eye-catching but as soon as I heard that wailing harmonica and thumping bass on opening track Little Black Book I knew I was onto a winner.
For what should be a relatively simple Classic British R&B foot stomper there’s an awful lot going on behind Jamie Williams gut wrenching vocal performance; not least Dave Milligan’s searingly hot guitar runs.
I Don’t Want To Break My Baby’s Heart which follows isn’t quite so earthy; more Manfred Mann than Dr. Feelgood if you know what I mean; but a helluva corking love song though, but man.
Nothing here is ever anything less than interesting with a couple of cool acoustic tunes thrown in for good measure, with Godsend and Bastard County both being glorious toe tapping Country Blues tunes of the highest order.
But it’s the glorious Rhythmic Blues of the electric persuasion that I’ve fallen in love with all over again with that harp from Nick Garner sending shivers down my spine on the chilling Voodoo Man (which also features the band on ‘harmonies’) and on Lonesome Howl From The Heart I was transported back to those drunken nights in the Red House on Newcastle’s dangerous Quayside long before it became gentrified.
While they obviously love 60’s British R&B and probably 70’s Pub Rock the band show that they aren’t a Retro Showband with Reaching For The Stars and One Man Mission To Mars which both fit in perfectly; but go off in spectacular new directions all of their own.
But; the title of RMHQ Favourite Song goes to a “Most Blues Wailing” song worthy of The Yardbirds, Feelgoods and even the Stones when they really were Rolling……..Baddass and Lazy is one of those songs that sounds great on record but will surely be a showstopper when played loud and at 100mph on stage. Williams sings from the heart over an industrial strength rhythm section and an electric guitar and harmonica that both need a bucket of cold water at the end of this spectacular 2 and a half minutes.
This is the music that first instilled my love of ‘The Blues’…..the quintessential British version and Jamie Williams and the Roots Collective aka JWRoots are every bit as good as anything that I’ve heard in the last twenty years; primarily because they aren’t trying to sound like anyone but themselves which is a winning formula at RMHQ.
Released 16th March 2018
One of the independent acts under the 3ms Music banner, this ensemble has singer and guitarist Williams as the spearhead and stars harpist Nick Garner, guitarist Dave Milligan, son Jake Milligan as bassist and drummer Paul Madden. Jamie has a stockpile of own songs. The entire record has no shallow nods to trendiness or fashion, but centres on skilful band playing.
Starting cut Little Black Book bursts into life with pattering drums and Bo-style stops plus ringing guitar motifs. One guitar sounds bright, the other more snarly – as this genre demands. The harp wails in and out of the backdrop much in the manner of Fontana-era Pretty Things. The vocal is persistent and the overall sound dense. Reminds me of The Bo Street Runners.
On to I Don’t Wanna Break My Baby’s Heart is strident and the vocal close to early Van, I am sure Them are an influence. The ensemble sound is crisp and focussed. One Man Mission To Mars goes for a reflective acoustic ambience. The song rolls along pleasantly in an almost Lemonheads mode, the harp has a touch of chorus and the singing is relaxed but steady. Next up Lonesome Howl From The Heart mines Muddy and Reed with some neat slide sounds like a stage favourite, prolonged resolve and all. Needs some Johnny Johnson style piano!
Godsend brings us springheeled guitar chording and a lovely acoustic-electric blend. The lyric is somewhat confessional and the vocal easily one of the best and clearest on the set. Thumbs up on this number. Baddass And Lazy has Creedence guitar on a solemn riff, vocal a bit mixed back. The song is superior with a touch of mystery. Reaching For The Stars sounds unbearably sad, tons of reverb on the instruments which sound ethereal. The song then settles into a lost soul vibe with singing to suit. Saved is a slow and steady and has that Tom Petty-Americana atmosphere, the harp floating above in a cloud of delay.
Bastard County sounds like a grim football team in a minor League but is a folky tune, trotting along in traditional way, warm singing and a sitting by the railway track ambience. Sardonic lyrics, which work for the song. Banjo in there? and what sounds like a G harp. Next is Voodoo Man which pumps along with compressed energy but a hackneyed chord progression. Clearly a setlist-must for its impact, created by the tight bass and drums. We finish with Understand which sounds heavenly and again a tad Van, the tremelo’d guitar and building arrangement enhancing that impression.
The overall impression of this album is that these sharp players know exactly what they are doing. If you have fond memories of The Kursaal Flyers, Ducks De Luxe and Help Yourself these chaps are certainly flying the flag.