“Pick up a copy! Use it as a coaster for ya tea!’ declared King King singer/guitarist Alan Nimmo on Wednesday, as the band launched their third album at London’s Jazz Cafe. Nimmo – a large, beaming Scotsman in a kilt and desert boots – looks like someone you’d crack jokes with over several pints. And though we already knew him to be a fine singer, the mix of heartbreaking soul and classic rock gravitas emitting from his mouth still took us by surprise. Never judge a book by its cover – or a big bloke by his kilt, it appears.
For better or worse, four un-flouncy, ‘normal’ guys playing bluesy rock isn’t an easy sell circa 2015. Or it isn’t if you want to reach people outside the (largely older) blues comfort zone. All of King King honed their blues and rock chops in other line-ups – notably, bassist Lindsay first met Nimmo in his band with brother Stevie, The Nimmo Brothers – but since the success of second LP Standing In The Shadows it’s seemed this could be the band to actually take them somewhere.
As it stands, they receive more attention in the blues press than anywhere else. In one sense this is appropriate. The band clearly love blues – Alan grew up on the likes of Peter Green, and healthy nods to the British Blues Boom crop up across their music. But they also rock hard when they want to, alongside the kind of rhythm and soul that echoes (fellow Scots) Frankie Miller and Average White Band. And the fact that niche sites are heaping such recognition upon an utterly non-purist act is surely a positive, horizon-broadening thing – serving up highly inviting rock n’ soul shades to devout genre connoisseurs. Seemingly, this warmth and range should be what extends their appeal to multiple crowds.
It’s the sound you’d imagine Thin Lizzy producing if they hung out with The Commitments (and if The Commitments weren’t at each other’s throats all the time, and were a real band), which gives it a populist sense of fun – with the bluesy cool and classic rock beef to back it up. Very easy to like, in other words.
Hurricane is a go-getting start with an instantly loveable hook and commanding organ blasts. Husky hints of Joe Bonamassa can be heard in the vocals and melody of Rush Hour, Just A Little Lie sees Nimmo crank up the wah to funk-tacular effect, and Lay With Me is pure loved-up sweetness, elevated by sultry Rn’B harmonies and old-soul organ. The aural equivalent of sinking into a bubble bath. Ahhh…
So, just another four blokes in another bluesy rock band? Or something of actual substance and style? Based on Reaching For The Light, we’re inclined towards the latter. Check this out, then catch them live – it’s well worth it.