Crossing the Line
BluesWax Rating: 8.5 out of 10
I love this new album by Simon McBride. Songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, McBride does it all, and does it with excellence. That doesn’t surprise me, considering he received three nominations for the 2011 British Blues Awards. This album should be a tough contender for 2012. Like a DJ who instinctively knows when to step up the music or chill it down, McBride has a super ability to segue from free-spirited Woodstock-era blues rock, to hard-driving, rocking blues without throwing the listeners brain into overdrive. Although the album clocks in at just a bit over forty-five minutes in length, it only feels like twenty. Oftentimes I kind of wonder if I have time-traveled forward twenty-five minutes when I realize the last song had just finished playing.
How an artist greets the listener with track number one is always interesting. It is the first impression after all. Emulating the oh-so noticeable sounds of a dive bomber, McBride steps in to “Lead Us Away” with an underlying marching-friendly beat provided by bassist Carl Harvey and drummer Paul Hamilton. Immediately following, McBride goes a little southern rock on us with ”Go Down Gamblin’,” a catchy little tune with a killer chorus soaked with that gritty and twangy sound we enjoyed in bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, and Molly Hatchet.
“Starve This Fever” intrigues me on a multitude of levels. Slow and psychedelic, much the way Big Brother and the Holding Company played “Summertime,” McBride’s guitar wails. In a very cool way, the Sixties meets the Nineties as the song unexpectedly steps out on the climb to a chorus more comparable to Aerosmith. McBride then doles out a little Latin flavoring in “Alcatraz.” The horn section, composed of saxophonist Davy Howell and Lindley Hamilton on trumpet, is a nice touch. It reminds me a tiny bit of the Santana/Rob Thomas collaboration on “Smooth.”
One of my other favorite songs on this album is “A Rock and a Storm.” With acoustic guitar in hand, McBride spins a tale of a marriage between the rock and the storm. McBride explains, the storm makes the rock feel alive, and the rock keeps the storm grounded. It is such an interesting way to look at things and makes me think we are all rocks and we are all storms, depending on who we are with and when we were with them.
Simon McBride brings to the table enthusiasm in his playing and craftsmanship in his writing. Not only are his songs excellently performed, but they possess a timeless quality about them as well. I’m still giddy over how much I enjoyed this album.
Phillip Smith is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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