EP Review: The Amblers – The Dustling Man

The Amblers The Dustling Man
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That first guitar lick will tell you everything you need to know about The Amblers, a blues rock duo hailing from Johannesburg.

It’s a lazy, crunchy riff, freshly graduated from the school of Angus Young. But there’s something more to it too, like if AC/DC grew up in the American South.

The blues rock influences are evident too – you have your Rolling Stones, White Stripes, and Royal Blood. Dirty blues rock, y’know? These all tie in to give that dangerous edge. Sure, the riffs and beats follow a formula of sorts, but there are unpredictable elements that only emerge for a bar here or there. If you listen closely you can also hear some nice clean playing underneath the layers of distortion. These parts are heard to pick out, but would certainly be welcome more prominently in the mix.

Fuzzy and raw, the opening track reeks of cool. Resplendent with laid back riffs, rocking solos, sloshy drum cymbals – these guys know what’s up.

The title track is the one to get your toe tapping. Similar to the first song, with a faster riff, and more of a four of the floor stomping feel than the stop start vibe of the first track.

The song “Tired”, on the other hand, is slower and balladesque. The distinctive guitar remains, but organ is dominant during this track. Organ with so much vibrato I picture the underwater scene from Pinnochio. You know when cartoons speak underwater and their voice ripples and undulates as they talk? Another neat addition is crisp piano notes playing on the beat, clinking to accent where you’d sometime expect the drummer to play the bell of the ride cymbal, or a cowbell.

Drummer Jason Hinch shows off most of his chops during the last track, “Keep Me Screamin’”. The verses follow the vocal line – guitar line alternating delivery of Sometimes. The cleaner guitar tone feels welcome after three tracks of intense fuzz, but still retains the same energy. 

For a duo, these guys sure pack a punch. Intimate listening reveals layer upon layer of subtle details that drown under the intense distortion. In fact, I can’t figure out how they would possibly pull these songs off live. Fuzzy, filthy and fleshed out, The Amblers will have you rocking out more than you’d expect possible from just two guys. They’re currently in the studio working on a new album, and that is something that excites me very much.

The Amblers


The Amblers links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wearetheamblers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/The_Amblers

Deezer: http://www.deezer.com/en/album/45793922

iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/album/id1267131916?ls=1&app=itunes

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Guitar Wolf at Meow, Wellington

Guitar Wolf Meow - Will Not Fade
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Guitar Wolf

w/ Huge Mutant

Meow, Wellington

Friday 24 November 2017

I feel that I need to explain my choice of attire.

Yesterday I posted on Instagram about how I was so excited for the Guitar Wolf gig at Meow tonight, and that I was planning on wearing my finest Hawaiian shirt. Someone from the band Hiboux commented, asking if this was a thing.

In short: no. But there is a weird rationale behind my decision.

You see, this is my third time seeing Guitar Wolf live. The first time was at Bodega. It was the night after seeing Foo Fighters at Western Springs in Auckland – at the time easily the best live act I’d seen. And as amazing as the large-scale Foo Fighters concert was, Guitar Wolf came damned close to topping them in terms of putting on a phenomenal live music experience.

One of the highlights of that night was when the singer pulled me up on stage to join a human pyramid. Another was when he pulled up a guy with a large beard and Hawaiian shirt. He handed his guitar to our lumberjack-looking friend, compelled him to “feel the rock” and instructed him to strum out.

The second time I saw Guitar Wolf was at Mighty Mighty – another defunct Wellington venue. And lo and behold, the same guy – wearing the same Hawaiian shirt and rocking the same awesome beard – was pulled onstage to feel the rock and play guitar. This second time I figured out that he was selected because he won a thumb wrestle.

I vowed to myself that next time, I would like to win the thumb wrestle and transform into a rock god onstage, under tutelage from Japan’s finest. And just to somehow enhance my odds, I decided to dress the same as the lumberjack dude. My thought process doesn’t make much sense, but oh well.


I’m lucky I even made it to the gig. After a long week at work I was knackered. I work as a preschool teacher, and the combination of heat, hay fever and loud children had given me a severe headache. I decided to have a short nap when I got home.

Turns out I needed that nap more than I’d realised. I woke up at 10pm – four hours later! I quickly threw on the all-important Hawaiian shirt and raced down to Meow. I’d missed the opening acts, but thankfully got to the gig in time for the main act.

And what a beautiful sight it was. Three grown men onstage wearing leather jackets and velociraptor masks. The guitarist cracked a can of beer open and emptied it into the mouth of the dinosaur.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay

Image: Kay Hoddy

After a short intro track the trio ditched their dino masks. Seiji led the trio on vocals and guitar. He wore wraparound sunglasses and was dripping with sweat for most of the set. Half of the appeal of Guitar Wolf is their energy, and Seiji injects so much of his personality into the show – making exaggerated expressions and motions as he plays. Toru kept the beat on drums, and frantically combed his hair back – rockabilly style – between songs. They also had a new bass player – Hikaru. I remember previous bassist, U.G. had taken to his bass guitar with a saw, cutting off the bottom portion that he didn’t need, seeing as he only played three strings. Hikaru was great, energetically flicking his hair around, and supporting on vocals.

Guitar Wolf are not for everyone. They take cues from punk, rock, rockabilly and garage to create their unique “jet rock n’ roll” – think Japanese Ramones. They’re ear-splittingly loud, with plenty of feedback and distortion. And they’re fast too. OK, so they’re not the tightest act out, but why let technical ability get in the way of a good show?

Seiji had good banter – or at least from what I could understand. He made a shout out “my cousin, Prime Minister of New Zealand” during their cover of “Summertime Blues”. He asked if we had boyfriends/girlfriends/both, before teaching us how to love. He also asked the crowd what the highest mountain in New Zealand is, which had him stumped when he couldn’t understand the name Aoraki.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay Hoddy

The pick of destiny. Image: Kay Hoddy

If you can’t tell yet, the show was great. I had the best time.

Like, literally.

BECAUSE THE HAWAIIAN SHIRT WORKED!!!

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t the shirt. But I accomplished my goal.

As soon as Seiji removed his guitar strap I knew my time had come. He thrust his arm out into the crowd and I raced forward to grab his hand. He didn’t thumb wrestle me as I’d expected, but I clung on hard, trying to gain favour with him.

Seiji pulled me onstage, gave me his guitar, turning a knob so that the volume maxed out, squealing with feedback. Then he placed a guitar pick in my hand, raising it high above me head in a classic rock star stance. He shouted instructions my ear. To be honest I can’t even remember what he said – I was on such a buzz – but the gist is that I had to rock out.

I began strumming in time with the band. I’m not a guitarist and had no idea about chords, so I just played open, with my hand resting lightly on the strings on the neck to prevent too much feedback. My apologies to those who attended and had to put up with the cacophony I cause.

Seiji instructed me as I played. I don’t know if I understood correctly, but he guided me to wait, before strumming when he cued me. The next challenge was to jump in time with the band as we played. They all crouched down and I followed their lead, unsure of my role.

Image: Kay Hoddy

I have no idea how long I was on stage, but I was having the time of my life. I had bloody fingers and knuckles from the sharp guitar strings, but I didn’t care – it was worth it. At one point I noticed that one of the guitar strings had broken, and I wondered if I had done that, or had Seiji broken it earlier?

To finish, Seiji held me and pulled me down to the floor of the stage, removing the guitar from me. A man at the front of the crowd grabbed my legs and hoisted me up, and next thing I know, I was crowd surfing. It was unnerving, but I felt supported and nobody dropped me.

Guitar Wolf Meow photo by Kay Hoddy

Image: Kay Hoddy

The rest of the set was great. People congratulated me on my newfound rock god status. Guitar Wolf kept playing their furious music. It was fun.

They left the stage, before coming on with an encore of a few more songs, and Seiji wrapped up with a second, solo encore.

Guitar Wolf prove that a rock show needs to be exactly that – a show! They have the look, the attitude, and the energy – as well as the music. If you get the chance to see Guitar Wolf in action, do it! Just don’t forget your earplugs!

Rock and roll!


Guitar Wolf have three more dates in New Zealand:

Saturday 25th November, Whammy Bar, Auckland
Sunday 26th November, Kewpie Party Boat, Tauranga
Monday 27th November, Secret Show, West Auckland

Tickets at Undertheradar: http://www.undertheradar.co.nz/tour/7227/Guitar-Wolf-New-Zealand-Tour.utr

 

Words by Joseph James

Photos by Kay Hoddy (https://twitter.com/KayInNewZealand#)

EP Review: His Master’s Voice The Devils Blues- Woman

His Master's Voice The Devils Blues Woman EP Cover
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I first heard of His Master’s Voice when Mathias Hallberg reviewed Into Orbit’s latest album release show. I had been in the South Island at a sporting event, and came back to Mathias raving about this bluesy band from Auckland.

Needing to make up for missing the show, I made a point of seeing the band next time they visited Wellington, and Mathias was 100% right. They’re damn good.

The band sent me Woman yesterday. I’ve been playing it on repeat non-stop since.

His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

Image: Will Not Fade

Take the blues and revive them with dosage of danger. Add filthy southern rock riffs. Swirl in a generous serving of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Drop in a few drugs. And then, amidst the swirling haze, you will find you have produced His Master’s Voice.

They play with such a swagger. Whether laying down a doomy groove, or ripping into a fast-paced swing section, the music is saturated with infectious feel.

My personal favourite is first track, “Burning” – a slow burner with a smooth, rolling riff. That is, until frontman Jesse Sorenson cries out “Come the groove!” And that’s exactly what happens. It all kicks in. If the bass line doesn’t get you moving then wait til the tambourines start ashakin’ and the primal drums kick in. And then, just to send you over the edge, we have a guitar solo.

There is no denying how much Black Sabbath have influenced His Master’s Voice’s sound. The title track on this EP reminds me of “Electric Wizard”. Sorenson channels his inner-Ozzy as he wails over a sweetly picked guitar melody. The rest of the band joins in, and the soaring guitars and organs elevate the music to the next level.

The only problem with Woman is the duration. 20 minutes is not enough! But I’ve been playing it on repeat and I can’t see myself tiring of these songs anytime soon. But honestly, what more do you need? Groovy blues with a heavy edge. Music that will possess you to dance. It’s just fantastic.

His Master’s Blues have pulled it off again, and Woman comes with my highest of recommendations.

His Master's Voice - The Devils Blues. Family of Strangers Tour. Valhalla, Wellington

Image: Will Not Fade

Woman is due out digitally on Bandcamp on 1 October 2017, and will also be available through the usual streaming platforms. The CD will be available at the EP release show at The King’s Arms on October 28th.

His Master’s Voice links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedevilsblues
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thedevilsbluesnz/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/thedevilsbluesnz
Bandcamp: www.hismastersvoice.bandcamp.com
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/brando28
Reverbnation: https://www.reverbnation.com/hismastersvoice
Merch: www.thedevilsmerch.com

His Master’s Voice are:

Jesse Sorensen – Vocals and Guitar
Brandon Bott – Bass
Az Burns – Guitar
Renè Harvey – Drums
(Plus Paul Lawrence – Keys on ‘Evil’ and ‘Woman’)

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

Album Review: Living Colour – Shade

Living Colour Shade cover
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It’s a shame that Living Colour haven’t been seen as current since the 90’s because they are immensely talented. But the eight year gap between albums has removed them from the limelight.

Hopefully their new album Shade will do something to redeem this because Living Colour deserve more attention. The quartet is composed of some of the best players I’ve seen. They take the best of rock, blues, hip-hop, metal, soul, jazz and funk, and combine it into brilliant music with a conscience.

Chuck Berry Tribute Band

Corey Glover. Photo by Will Not Fade

We already had a taste of the album earlier in the year with two covers featured on Shade. One is a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Preachin’ Blues”. This is the song that really laid the tone for the record, giving the band inspiration to take a bluesy direction. “What better way to talk to the world than through the blues?” vocalist Corey Glover asks. “We recorded ‘Preachin’ Blues’ several times to jump start the project and that got everybody fired up. After that, we were ready. Shade, in its final outcome, is more of a deconstruction of the blues than an interpretation. It was the idiom that gave us our voice.” The guitars are especially grunty on this track, and singer Cory Glover’s voice packs a punch.

The other cover is a rendition of Notorious BIG’s “Who Shot Ya?”, which the band put a hard rock spin on. They selected the song partly because Glover is a massive Biggie fan, but also because it raises questions about how prevalent gun violence is in America.

Rounding off the cover hat-trick is Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues”. The verses sound similar to the original with softly cooed vocals and light funky groove, but the rest is hard rocking. Gaye’s original was a commentary on the way of life for Americans at the time. Things appeared bleak, accentuated by the then-current war in Vietnam. Listening to the lyrics made me reflect on how the issues could be construed as just as relevant more than 30 years on.

Including so many covers is an interesting move. Almost a quarter of the songs on the album were written by other people – not something I would expect from such accomplished musicians. But it works, with the band placing their own mark squarely on each cover.

Vernon Reid has long been regarded as a guitar legend. His work on this album is punchy and dangerous. He’s a force to be reckoned with. And Corey Glover’s powerful voice matches him every step of the way. The two of them often pretend to bicker on stage, but their partnership is what gives the music that X factor.

Living Colour Powerstation Auckland

Vernon Reid and Corey Glover. Photo taken by Will Not Fade at Living Colour’s Auckland show earlier this year

“Come On” is brilliant. The softer verses played on guitar by messing with the pickup contrast against the grunty choruses. We also hear glitches in a deconstructed beat, verging on dubstep territory. I attribute this inclusion to drummer Will Calhoun. Earlier in the year Calhoun told me about growing up during the birth of hip-hop, when drum machines were at their height of prominence. He had played around with drum machines and effects, trying to elicit alien sounds out of drums, much in the same way that Hendrix drew otherworldly sounds out of his guitar.

To continue the Hendrix inspiration, the track “Invisible” pays homage to drummer Buddy Miles, who played in Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys. Miles was a friend of the band, who attended all of their Chicago shows when Living Colour started out.

“Always Wrong” is a more tender moment on the album, showing Corey’s diversity as a singer. By contrast, “Pattern In Time” reminds me of 1990’s “Time’s Up”, with a direct, thrashy feel.

Doug Wimbish lays down beautifully funky bass lines in “Blak Out”. The groove steps up for “Who’s That”, which includes trumpet and organ, taking me back to the Trombone Shorty show I went to a few weeks ago. Then, just to top things off, George Clinton lends his touch to album closer “Two Sides”.

Living Colour Powerstation Auckland

Image: Will Not Fade

As always, Living Colour continue with the political content. Some obvious example include the hip-hop inspired “Program”, which explores how reliable the media are these days, in an age of click bait and fake news; or Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya?” which looks at gun violence, especially the way it is framed visually in the music video. And it’s great to see that the band stands by their values regardless of the current political climate. Shade has taken a long time to write, starting back when Barack Obama was in office. So sure, some songs may be in reaction to an orange man living in a white house, but Living Colour will always campaign for human rights despite who is in power.

When I interviewed Calhoun earlier in the year I raised that Living Colour often include social commentary in their work. He proudly agreed, sharing that “some of our songs deal with gender, discrimination, chauvinism, bullying, and those kinds of things. We write songs based upon what we experience in life. That’s what’s most fun about being a member of Living Colour… Our music and lyrics are very present and relevant. And we hope that the music reaches people and might be. As an artist you always want to have present impact upon your audience.”

Living Colour by Travis Shinn (Shade)

Image: Travis Shinn

Shade is heavy. No doubt about it.  When you think back to the band’s iconic track, the searing “Cult of Personality”, it makes a lot of sense. When I saw the band live in Auckland earlier in the year many of the songs felt like full-on thrash metal tunes. Of course the myriad of other genres work their way into the music, but Living Colour

The track “Program” commences with a sample of an interview with rapper Scarface. He’s humming the riff to “Cult of Personality”, trying to remember the name of the band who plays it. “Living fucking Colour!” he remarks when the interviewer tells him, “find me another rock band, seriously!”, implying that Living Colour are the only band that truly rock out.

There was never any doubt in my mind that Shade would deliver. The four musicians in the band are such talented veterans of rock. I’ve had the privilege of seeing both Living Colour and another band featuring guitarist Vernon Reid and singer Corey Glover this year, making my anticipation all the more real. And just like I expected, they nail it. The music is powerful in many ways, musically and thematically. I hope that Shade reinstates Living Colour back in place as rock legends.

Living Colour Powerstation Auckland

Doug Wimbish. Photo by Will Not Fade

Living Colour links:

Website: http://www.livingcolour.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LivingColour/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LivingColour

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBp5wftf7WswgIko42GUfWQ

 

Joseph James

Photo Gallery: A Celebration of Chuck Berry, Lincoln Center, NYC

Gallery

 A Celebration of Chuck Berry

w/ Low Cut Connie, Chuck Berry tribute band & The Jayhawks

The Lincoln Center, New York

Saturday 12 August 2017

It was my first ever time visiting New York. The sheer scale of the place is nothing like I’ve encountered, being from the tiny nation of New Zealand. On the bus ride in I decided to do an internet search to see if any gigs were on tonight. Surely there has to be something happening in the city that never sleeps?

I began to scroll through the search results, when something caught my eye: a free gig featuring Vernon Reid. Wait… The Vernon Reid? From Living Colour?

I saw Living Colour play in Auckland this year and the talent was unreal. And the very same guitarist was putting on a free show? Count me in!

The show was a free event at the Lincoln Center, one of the last of a series that had occurred over the summer. There were three acts all working together to pay tribute to the late, great, Chuck Berry.

Low Cut Connie

First act – Philadelphia based Low Cut Connie – were fantastic. They excelled due to the energy they put into their performance. I arrived ten minutes late (turns out that the New York subway is far trickier to navigate than the Boston subway that I had ridden yesterday), to see singer standing atop a piano stool theatrically while singing. A few songs in he ventured out into the crowd to sing as he ran up and down the aisles.

Low Cut Connie Low Cut Connie Low Cut Connie

Chuck Berry tribute band

Vernon Reid had pieced together a great band to play Chuck Berry covers. The stage was incredibly crowded, with a grand piano, three piece brass section, bass, at least three guitarists, and a revolving roster of singers and extra guitarists all playing their part throughout the night.

Of course, the talent Reid had handpicked for the event were all fantastic. It was clear that they were all having fun onstage, dancing around as the played the hits of such a legendary artist. Living Colour singer Corey Glover even made an appearance, pretending to bicker with Reid between songs to provide funny banter.

The band ended with the obligatory “Johnny B Goode”, before a naughty encore of “Ding A Ling”.

Chuck Berry Tribute Band Chuck Berry Tribute Band

Chuck Berry Tribute Band

Chuck Berry Tribute Band

Chuck Berry Tribute Band

Chuck Berry Tribute Band

Chuck Berry Tribute Band

Chuck Berry Tribute Band

The Jayhawks

By the time The Jayhawks arrived onstage it was dark, making the stage lights stand out and set the mood. Compared to the first two bands, The Jayhawks were more relaxed, with a sound that reminded me of Calexico.

The Jayhawks The JayhawksThe Jayhawks The Jayhawks

All words and photos by Joseph James

Photo Gallery: Skinny Hobos at Valhalla, Wellington

Gallery

Skinny Hobos

w/ Brendon Thomas & The Vibes, Nation

Friday 2 June 2017

Valhalla, Wellington

Last night was wild haze. I went to the show at Valhalla … which was awesome… and I woke up feeling quite lost and unwell in a van in Marton … which was not so awesome. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.

I spent the rest of today hitching and busing back to Wellington. Here are some snaps I took at the gig.

Brendon Thomas & The Vibes

Brendon Thomas & The Vibes Valhalla Wellington Brendon Thomas & The Vibes Valhalla Wellington

Skinny Hobos

Skinny Hobos Valhalla Wellington

Words and photos by Joseph James