Blues Round-up: August 2014

Henry Yates on new releases from Philip Sayce, Ben Miller Band, Blacktop Deluxe, Colleen Rennison and Red Butler

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Philip Sayce: Influence

Two years is a long time in the bang-’em-out blues market. Since his steamroller trundled out in 2012, Influence has been bafflingly delayed, and there’s been a consensus that Philip Sayce needs to pull the trigger before his stock falls. Clock-watch no more: Influence puts the Canadian bluesman back into contention. There’s no question that much credit is due to Dave Cobb. Fresh from rocket-fuelling Rival Sons’ Great Western Valkyrie, the producer brings similar ear-boxing muscle to what is generally an anvil-heavy blues rock record (Cobb also co-wrote the six originals). But ultimately – and rightly – it’s the 38-year-old band leader who elevates influence to a career-best record. Topless and shamanic on the sleeve, blazing squalls of wah-wah over Hendrix hat-tips like Out Of My Mind and wrenching Little Richard’s grip from grooves like Green Power, this former boy-next-door arguably now feels like a star for the first time. We’ll forgive Sayce the frustrating incubation-period. Influence is worth the wait. (810)

**Ben Miller Band: Any Way, Shape Or Form **

They call it ‘Ozark stomp’: an umbrella-heading for the strands of porch blues, bluegrass twang and Appalachian mountain folk woven by Miller and his trio on DIY instruments. They’re masters of the hoedown barn-burner (see The Outsider) and genuinely emotive on I Feel For You. The highlight to date has been a ZZ Top support, but bigger things await. (710)

Blacktop Deluxe: Turn Up, Be Nice, Play Hard

In the Machiavellian modern music industry, there are worse mission statements than turning up, being nice and playing hard. As such, while you wouldn’t tip Blacktop Deluxe to unseat Bonamassa, the joy is palpable on this self-released debut as the Cornish trio riff on themes from muscle cars to their parlous finances, helped by some rock-solid musicianship. (610)

Colleen Rennison: See The Sky About To Rain

Following her breakout as the warrior-princess of the anarchic No Sinner, Colleen Rennison’s solo debut is a curve ball: a set of rebooted standards from the great Canadian songbook (don’t laugh: there is one). It’s brave stuff, and it works, with her sensitive treatments of Joni Mitchell’s Coyote and The Band’s All La Glory proving she’s far more than a belter in cut-offs. (710)

Red Butler: Freedom Bound

Oh to have a tenth of Red Butler’s youthful fizz. The Sussex four-piece are fist-tight and trouser-flappingly good on highlights like Danger Zone, and even when they take on dog-eared chestnuts like Shakin’ All Over they invest them with fresh soul. Led by the arresting vocals of Jane Pearce, they’re one to watch, now and in the future. (610)

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.