Laurence Jones - Take Me High
You’re not a card-carrying member of the British blues mafia until you’ve been produced by Mike Vernon. The architect of the 60s boom – with credits including the Beano album and A Hard Road – Vernon came out of retirement in 2010 for Oli Brown, and Laurence Jones has spent two years badgering him for a hit of that sonic fairy dust.
Take Me High is Jones’s fourth album, and it also happens to be his best by a mile. Vernon underlines his reputation, turning in a fat, thumping, visceral mix. Yet it’s the younger man who is the revelation. Galvanised rather than overawed by Vernon’s presence, Jones steps up his writing on the snake-charmer riff-rock of Got No Place To Go and the melodic nous of The Price I Pay, while his vocals on I Will are markedly more mature than the cherub of debut album Thunder In The Sky. Will Take Me High have the same cultural impact as Beano and the other blues rock heavy hitters? That’s still to be confirmed. But it undoubtedly deserves a place on Vernon’s CV. (8⁄10)
Seratones - Get Gone
The Fat Possum label is due a classic band, and Louisiana’s Seratones have the makings of one. Led by the butter-wouldn’t-melt AJ Haynes – a baptist church alumnus with a voice for sin – they career through indie rock, jazz and soul. However, the best song on the album comes straight out of the blocks in the form of Chokin’ On Your Spit: it’s a punk rabble-rouser looking for a riot to soundtrack. (7⁄10)
Larkin Poe - Reskinned
The bluegrass roots of Atlanta-based sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell give little indication of their latest musical move on Reskinned. The album’s opening one-two of Sucker Puncher and Trouble In Mind is as good as smash-and-grab garage blues gets, while the dovetailing vocals of the supremely hooky Don’t establishes the pair as a two-headed talent to watch. (8⁄10)
Charlotte Carpenter - How Are We Ever To Know?
In five slow-burn tracks, decorated with glowering slide guitar, the Kettering songwriter’s sixth EP dissects a relationship turned sour. Am I Alone In This? nails the sense of curdling romance, before Electric celebrates the solitude in folksy style and the aching Burn closes the door. This intimate cri de coeur is cut from the same cloth as Bonnie Raitt. (7⁄10)
Gary Hoey - Dust & Bones
While most musicians deny their borderline plagiarism, Dust & Bones finds Gary Hoey brazenly and openly approximating his heroes. Who’s Your Daddy is a gleeful steal from Brian Setzer, Steamroller dips into the pockets of Johnny Winter and Back Against The Wall is Hideaway in all but title. He might not be pushing the art form, but it’s affectionate, well-executed and enjoyable. (7⁄10)