Good blues guitarists aren’t hard to find. For every copy of Guitarist magazine, Total Guitar etc sold, a quietly heaving population of aspiring Stevie Ray Vaughans and Albert Kings is building an arsenal of chops, making Youtube videos and hitting jam nights. And as the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Matt Schofield et al inspire waves of rising and unknown axe-wielders, the fires for new bluesy guitar heroes remain stoked.
Bluesy guitar heroes with really good songs, on the other hand (not to mention stage presence), are a rarer breed. Hitherto now, by his own admission, Dan Patlansky has been all about the guitar heroics. A feverish (and surprisingly short, we found at his London album launch this week) embodiment of SRV licks, Led Zeppelin and beaming exuberance, six albums in Patlansky has opted to focus on…well, the actual songs. With a few finger-lacerating solos for good measure – exhibited with unbridled gusto at the aforementioned album launch.
And so, just as Bonamassa (an audible influence of Patlansky’s) made songwriting a priority with Different Shades Of Blue, Patlansky has favoured quality tunes over fretboard wankery for Dear Silence Thieves. Now don’t get me wrong; I love a good shot of twiddly showiness just as much as the next air-guitaring blues lover/wannabe actual guitarist. But widespread popularity does not grow from frenetic tapping or inconceivable speed alone, and while Patlansky has enjoyed healthy sales in his native South Africa, he needed something else to go global. Or at least have a good stab at going global.
Things start well – opener Backbite is near as dammit perfect. Built on a killer, funky blues rock hook, with the husky soul of Lenny Kravitz, it’s a ‘HELL YEAH!’-inducing winner. The difficulty of starting with such a bang, is of course sustaining it. Happily, Dan seems aware of this, so follows with an attractive spread of blues rock both chipper and melancholy, contemporary and trad._ Fetch Your Spade_ weaves smooth tastes of Jeff Golub into its swaggering rock thrust; Only An Ocean blends blues with contemporary, Rn’B-laced pop, and Feels Like Home is all tasty, chest-thumping syncopation.
The bottom line? It is missing a couple more Backbites (it’s telling that he played the song at the beginning, and end, of this week’s launch show). But Dear Silence Thieves is still a super record that’s set Patlansky firmly on the right path – i.e. with this new creative vigour, just think what’ll come next…