The blues had a baby, and they called it rock n' roll...
After years of being a niche genre, blues rock is once again creeping into the public consciousness with critically and commercially acclaimed bands such as The Answer, and Rival Sons spearheading this revival. These guys manage to pull off the trick of making great music that while evoking the spirit of such legendary 1960s acts as Led Zeppelin, Free, and the God-like Rory Gallagher, while sounding very much of the 21st century.
After building up a fearsome live reputation The Temperance Movement, the latest band to give a contemporary twist to white blues, have released an album that catapults them right to the front of the pack. I could write this review in one line: "This self titled debut album is a magnificent piece of work, with not a weak track to be found amongst the 14 songs that fill these four sides of vinyl". That would make for an incredibly boring read, so let's take a closer (hopefully interesting...) look at why this LP deserves such gushing praise.
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The album kicks off with as impressive a one-two opening of bourbon fuelled rock and roll you'll hear this side of 'Tres Hombres'. 'Only Friend' and 'Ain't No Telling' highlight the strengths of the band, namely the emotionally charged vocals of Phil Campbell, and the intelligent yet funky chops of the instrumentalists. Following these two blues infused rockers the album takes a mellower turn with the beautiful ballad 'Pride'. This lovely, although also sad song cannot fail to move anyone who has loved and lost someone who had complete hold of their heart.
These three songs really do set the template for the rest of the LP, which is packed with similarly boogietastic rockers, and heartfelt slower numbers. Although there are no duffers here, there are some songs that are definite stand out numbers.
'Be Lucky' storms its way into the ears with an infectious riff, and a refrain of 'here she comes, right on time' that you'll find yourself humming for the rest of the day. The same goes for 'Midnight Black' which by rights should be a massive hit single.
'Chinese Lanterns' is another fine example of the gentler side of The Temperance Movement, and again cannot fail to soften even the hardest heart.
This band are masters of tough bluesy rock, and if that is all they had to offer then they would still be rightly celebrated, however for this listener it is the emotional ballads that lift this album to greatness. There are many fine bands who can get one dancing and smiling, however it's only the very best who can connect with ones own heart and soul. The ballads here prove that TTM have an abundance that elusive quality.
Take, for example, 'Smouldering' which has an erotic charge rarely found in modern popular music, which assumes smut is the same thing. It ain't! This is one hell of a song, and the combination of Campbell's singing and haunting melody, just oozes a hypnotic sexiness.
The CD version of this album closes in fine fashion with 'Serenity', yet another magnificent slow burner, which moves from a gentle intoduction, to a full on electric guitar workout, coupled with some anthemic backing vocals, before closing with a calm guitar figure. Truly impressive!
That would be a stunning conclusion to any record, but if you have invested in the vinyl incarnation of the album, then you are in for more treats in the form of a pair of bonus tracks, which comprise side four of the album. It seems a little churlish to regard 'Turn' and 'Mothers Eyes' as mere bonus tracks, as the former is the equal of any other song here, while the latter tune is just something else.
'Mothers Eyes' has a similar feel to 'Serenity', and to these ears is the finest song on the whole album. The lyrics are Dylanesque in parts, with some powerful imagery, emphasised by some heartfelt vocals, brilliantly supported with some superb musicianship. For me, this is the true album closer, and it ends the record in stunning style. I can imagine this one being played on a hot summer night, in Hyde Park, with thousands singing along, lighters held aloft, while Campbell and the guys have the crowd in the palm of their hand.
I keep going on about Phil Campbell, simply because he is a stunningly brilliant singer, able to wring the last ounce of feeling from any song he sings. He is as equally at home roaring the blues like a man possessed, as he is purring romantic words of love. He's in the same class as Rival Sons Jay Buchanan, and that means world class.
The instrumentalists in TTM are equally important to the sound of the music gifted to us here. Guitarists Luke Potashnick and Paul Sayer are fine purveyors of the 'less is more' style of playing, where the silences between notes matter just as much as the notes that are played. Having said that, they can kick up a storm when the song demands it! The rhythm team of drummer Damon Wilson and bassist Nick Fyffe are a funky and supple duo, who give the songs a real sense of swing.
In fact the whole band are working as a team and this, in conjunction with the spare yet effective production, courtesy of the band and Sam Miller, furnishes the whole album with a natural, live sound, which only adds to the timeless feel of this music. Oh, and they might sound like they have crawled from the Deep South, but in fact they are four Brits and one Aussie!
I genuinely love this album. It's warm, powerful, heartfelt, moving and exciting, and that's what rock and roll is. I give this genuinely magnificent piece of artistry the full five pints rating, and then some!
1. Only Friend
2. Ain't No Telling
4. Be Lucky
5. Midnight Black
6. Chinese Lanterns
7. Know For Sure
8. Morning Riders
9. Lovers and Fighters
10. Take It Back