Down here in the hole there are some bands that would not only get in for free but get their drinks paid for too; just for sitting at the bar and grinning. Black Crowes, Free and Gallagher are part of this highly regarded set. Skynyrd, Quo, the Georgias and Faces too. To this revered gaggle you can now add Slowburner.
Hailing from Worcester (UK and not Massachusetts), this band of good ol' Midlands' boys has been knocking around in one form or another since 1987. They have shared stages with some of the greatest exponents of rock and blues the planet has ever known and have the looks to prove it too; these boys are no spring chickens.
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While the world is crawling with hot shot blues six stringers and bands like Black Country Communion and The Union flying high and mighty with their take on rocked up heavy blues, we have Slowburner, without a deal, quietly doing their own thing and knocking the rest into a cocked hat. Eschewing the histrionics of youth, this band prefers to take on the more funky, raw blues that the likes of Free, Bad Co, Humble Pie and Cry Of Love used to peddle.
'Rockin' The Blues' is the band's seventh album and is made up of tracks originally written between 2001 and 2005. I don't know if they have been recorded before or not. It is simply a raw blues album but not just any blues album, oh no. Think of a little less funky Free mixed with a less clunky Cry Of Love, the resulting rough edges polished somewhat by the addition of a soulful Climax Blues Band groove.
Killer tracks? There aren't any; there doesn't need to be any because the whole fucking album is a blast. 'I'm Ready' has a great 12 bar honky tonk groove that nearly catches the magic of the times when Frankie Miller and Rory Gallagher used to get it together. 'Dead Man's Bones' is a cracking country flavoured stomper and 'Tell Me What You Want' has the Crowes written all over it.
Got 'I Want You To Know'? Think Fabulous Thunderbirds; 'Shout The Blues' does exactly what it says with some nice understated slide work thrown in for good measure and 'Rock And Roll Show' comes deep out of Bad Co territory. Shit, I could go one but I think you'll get the picture.
It does occasionally take a step too close to Commitments territory ('Don't Trust Myself' for instance) and the edges are a bit too polished sometimes but 'Rockin' The Blues' remains an album that you can just set to replay and leave on. The album may not have the heaviness of the likes of BCC and Bonamassa but it does not need it. The guitars are relaxed and happy to sit in the groove, sniping and whipping the songs along; the keyboards are at home switching from southern gospel to bar room honky tonk and back again. The rhythm section gives the whole thing a nice funky base for it all to sit on.
The vocals, the icing on the cake here are an effortless mix of James Brown, Paul Rodgers and Kelly Holland with just a touch of Plant.
There are some good songs and good playing on 'Rockin' The Blues' yet for some reason Slowburner is not better known. Whether that's down to bad luck or good planning is debateable but the main reason is, I suspect, the music is not the sort of blues that appeals to the massed ranks of middle aged affluent white men who prefer to swing their freshly pressed jeans to the likes of Cray, Trout and Clapton. Robert Plant may enjoy sharing their stage on occasions but that is not going to sway the blues intelligencia who are still looking for Johnson's lost song.
There has been a lot of older bands referenced here which is pretty damn certain to put a lot of the young uns off this outfit but the only things wrong with this album are it does not have the thrust of originality that the old originals benefitted from and more immediately, it lacks a full tilt horn section. Yet that should not be allowed to detract from the fact that this is a fucking great album.
Blues, like southern rock, has little to find out about itself so rather than what it does, it is how it does it that is going to make the difference. 'Rockin' the Blues' is a fine, fine album that does what it does exceptionally well so give your molten Metal self an injection of bluesed up soul and treat yourself to 'Rockin' The Blues'.