Arriving home after my fragile adventure to New Zealand and found the vinyl album I had ordered via Bandcamp has managed to wing its way across the Atlantic. I tiptoe to Minneapolis, USA crank up the volume and enter the blues-rock world of The Lone Crows and their self-titled debut album. The album cover had been personally signed by each member of the band (thanks guys) and now sits on the turntable for this review.
My general rule of thumb concerning any new rock bands who define themselves in a specific genre and walk a path that has been well trodden before is (a) you need to be good and I mean really good, or (b) you better limit your ambitions to becoming a half decent covers band. There is no grey area between (a) and (b) after all if you are going to wear your influences on your sleeve then boy you need to be special or risk languishing in Spinal Tap purgatory.
The Lone Crows have navigated themselves away from the danger of musical purgatory by producing one of the best debut blues-rock albums my ears have had the pleasure of hearing. Yes, The Lone Crows are that good. The album is a ludicrously self-confident effort without a hint of arrogance, which is equally impressive given its humble origins. The Lone Crows initially started gigging in 2009 and by mid 2011 their sound had matured into the blues rock style, which dominates this album. The band consist of Tim Barbeau– Guitar, Vocals, Julian Manzara– Guitar, Andy Battcher– Bassm Joe Goff- Drums, Percussion
With old man questions at the ready I spoke to Tim Barbeau and Julian Manzara about the album and their influences.
JK: What was the main influences behind the album?
JK: Which is your favourite track and why?
JK: If you could have a guest artist to appear on your next venture who would it be (dead or alive) and why?
Julian: John Paul Jones on organ. Who needs a another guitar player?
The Lone Crows – The Lone Crows
The Lone Crow opens the album and is built on the rock solid foundation of Joe Goff’s drilling drum work, which maintains the momentum throughout the tracks 3.30 minutes. The track is a fine opener that is either going to open a Pandora’s box of treats or runs the risk of firing the bands best shot first. The grinding blues chords of Can’t Go Home Again prick the ears up. The track contains all the characteristics of a classic stadium anthem. Bursting with its crowd induced chorus line. By this stage the listening ear is also thinking where the journey goes next. Heard You Call would not go a miss on a classic Thin Lizzy, or Santana album with its exquisite guitar work. You Got Nothing moves deeper into blues-rock territory and is properly the most accomplished track on the album as it builds and moves through various shifts in structure. Moonshine is the album’s thoughtful ode to loves drunken influences “You’ve got sunshine in you’re your heart and I’ve got moonshine in mine.” The Ghost is a 6-minute blues thumping instrumental romp, which reminds me of The Doors live at their poignant best. When I Move On takes us back up a notch with its hard rock swagger that Jimmy Page would be proud of. The Crawl bursting at the seams with pounding blues guitars and bass it weaves through its 5.12 minute existence to set up the albums final track brilliantly. Runnin’ Through My Head brings the album to its close with its pounding bass line. In 1974 somebody passed me a copy of The Free’s classic Fire and Water album. and Runnin’ Through My Head would not be a weak link if added to the Fire and Water Album. I cannot really pay the track a better complement.
Structural variation in both individual track and the manner in which the whole album has been put together keeps the listener engaged throughout. This is an album in the traditional sense rather than a collection of songs that have accidentally been pulled together. There has obviously been some handwork and thought given to it overall production. There are of course some flaws, but in the scheme of things they add to its character and do not undermine the solid foundation the band has made. I for one look forward with excitement to the next instalment, which I understand from the guys is currently in the pipeline.
Buy this album now! £4.80 for the download or good old vinyl for £7 (plus £6.20 postage). If you happen to be in Germany during May 2014 you can pop along to see the band play live. More details here https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley. I complete my listening, take the vinyl off the deck, carefully place back into the sleeve and put it on the shelf next to my Led Zeppelin vinyls.