Pretty much this time last year, When Rivers Meet released their debut album, We Fly Free. I know because I reviewed it, and I loved it. So in a year when not much good stuff has happened in the world, When Rivers Meet’s second album, Saving Grace, is the real, the only and the best good news ever.
When Rivers Meet – Saving Grace (One Road Records)
Release Date: 19 November 2021
Words: Mark Rotherham
When Rivers Meet plays the blues, and how! This new album has twelve tracks, and just like their debut album, they range far and wide in their style. But can they match the amazing-ness of their first album? Let’s see.
The album kicks off with I Can’t Fight This Feeling, and you can taste the whiskey being poured in a sawdust-floor bar as this song oozes into your ears and ties your brain into knots. This opener has a much more raw sound than the first album. But what you always get are colossal, earth-shaking riffs that let you know that the album has landed in no uncertain terms. Grace Bond’s voice remains as full and heartfelt as ever, and Aaron’s musicianship is absolutely on point.
If there’s one thing that stands When Rivers Met completely out from the crowd, is the sheer variety of styles on one album. That is emphasised with Never Coming Home, with its edgy slide guitar and foot-tapping, catchy as hell tune. Grace hits the high notes on the chorus, and the song chugs along. This is blues through and through but told in a whole different way.
We’re all taken on a back to the blues’ roots with the next track, He’ll Drive You Crazy, which transports you to the banks of the Mississippi with a big, big blues sound that’s an absolute pleasure to hear. Grace’s echoey voice effects give the song a real vintage feel, but the song’s sheer power is one hundred per cent up to date.
Straight after a trip into vintage blues, the pace comes down several gears with Don’t Tell Me Goodbye. As David Coverdale once said, it’s a slow blues tune, but this time it’s with a steel guitar sound. Aaron gets in on the vocal action, joining in on the harmonies and second verse, turning the song into a mom and pop blues duet. It’s a beautiful, sad, tragic song about lost love.
But it doesn’t stay quiet for long. Do You Remember My Name picks up the pace with a hellishly catchy drum beat and riff. Whether you liked the subject at school or absolutely hated it when you listen to this album, you can’t miss the chemistry that’s laced right through it, and if you hear this song at breakfast time, you’ll still be humming the chorus when you go to sleep.
And then there’s Have No Doubt About It, which showcases this band’s versatility. It’s mid-tempo, Grace’s haunting voice shines through, but where some of their songs could have been lifted from an early thirties gramo-recording, this one sounds like exactly what it is, and that was made in 2021. It’s still bluesy, but if ever you wanted a masterclass in the sheer diversity of the blues, listen to When Rivers Meet.
The changes carry on with Eye Of A Hurricane (Friend Of Mine pt2). It starts with a slow, haunting guitar line. Aaron leads nicely on the vocals while Grace harmonises during the chorus. Just a change in singers, but it’s a real curveball, yet another curveball in a beautifully varied album that goes in all sorts of different directions while still staying firmly within the blues boundaries.
Testify ramps up the speed, and Grace returns to vocal centre stage, and there’s another directional change. If it was or even is possible for the blues to sound, well, mainstream, then this song is it, and there’s even a few small groovy organ licks. The addictive, pure entertainment continues with Shoot The Breeze, with its fantastic riff that chugs along next to Grace’s start/stop singing, and who is doing that drumming? Amazing stick work! This is one powerful runaway truck of a blues rocker that’s turned up to eleven.
And the rocking’s turned up even more with Lost And Found, a song that announces itself with an absolute thundering riff that gives you that sweet spot fusion of blues and Metal. Yes, Metal. Forget about blues-rock, this is molten distorted guitar heaven, and Grace’s vocals absolutely soar on this song. The neat little reverb singing near the song’s end would even have Robert Plant going green with envy.
The pace slows down once more with Talking In My Sleep, an acoustic duet and yet another surprise on an album that is just chock full of them. It’s got an almost country feel to it, and that’s not to be critical. It’s just yet another illustration of the sheer diverse, multi-directional sounds that these two are capable of. There’s a real maturity in When Rivers Meet, and I have to keep reminding myself that this is only their second album, that their debut one was only last year.
The album bows out with Make A Grown Man Cry, a visceral, low down rocking blues track that oozes menace and voice-box vocals. It’s a brutal, solid ending to Saving Grace. But as always, the vocals are spot-on and always cushioned with an absolute wall of cerebral blues-rock.
So there you have it When Rivers Meet’s second album. I have to ask myself if the album’s name has anything to do with Grace herself, but I guess that’ll have to wait for the interview.
And the crucial question, can they equal their utterly top drawer debut album? And the answer is almost, but I have to be honest with you, I don’t think it’s even possible to beat their first one. This album comes a very, very close second, but it’s no worse because of it.
Saving Grace is one big huge slice of quality for all those music fans who are serious about listening to blues that matters.
Saving Grace can be pre-ordered from whenriversmeet.co.uk
1. I Can’t Fight This Feeling
2. Never Coming Home
3. He’ll Drive You Crazy
4. Don’t Tell Me Goodbye
5. Do You Remember My Name
6. Have No Doubt About It
7. Eye Of A Hurricane (Friend Of Mine pt2)
9. Shoot The Breeze
10. Lost And Found
11. Talking In My Sleep
12. Make A Grown Man Cry