Supersonic Blues Machine: West Of Flushing South Of Frisco

Guitar royalty gather for a 21st-century take on the ‘heavy friends’ concept.

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What could be called ‘superstar guest syndrome’ has become one of the blights of modern music, as big names agree to grace a project then send their solo through internet file-sharing; often sounding phoned in because, essentially, they were.

Thankfully, that’s not the case with this rich offering concocted by Texan guitarist-singer-songwriter Lance Lopez, bassist Fabrizio Grossi (producer-to-the-stars for the likes of Alice Cooper, Glenn Hughes and countless more) and drummer Kenny Aronoff, best known for his sensitive tub-thumping behind John Mellencamp. Instead, they invited some close mates.

This collaboration resulted from a conversation between Grossi and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, who recommended he work with his childhood friend Lopez. Aronoff became involved through his friendship with Grossi, and The Slam’s Slim Simic came on board as co-writer, supplying some optimistic lyrics.

Although immaculately produced, the overall sound resembles a large, extended family having a blast, as the album develops into an organic beast where all manner of formidable chops are unleashed but always in sympathy to the sonic gumbo being cooked up.

One inspiration came from how the Rolling Stones added like-minded musicians if it enhanced a particular track. The first song written for the album was Runnin’ Whiskey, a scorching vamp electrified by Gibbons’s unmistakable guitar tones, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ZZ Top’s Eliminator.

As the album proceeds, it takes on a denser hue, enlivened by further guests including former Allman Brothers guitarist and Gov’t Mule founder Warren Haynes on southern rock slowie Remedy; Lance’s childhood friend Eric Gales on the atmospheric Nightmares And Dreams; Chris Quarte garnishing That’s My Way; Walter Trout adding supernatural power to Can’t Take it No More, and jazz-rocker Robben Ford soaring on lustrous ballad Let’s Call It.

Crucially, the album doesn’t rest on its guests. The clutch of tracks fashioned by the core band full-tilt sizzle (often bolstered by a glam rock-style production on the vocal hooks), and their version of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s Ain’t No Love (In The Heart Of The City) is a gorgeous slab of deep soul magic. Meanwhile, Grossi’s defiantly heartfelt I Ain’t Falling could be applied to any desperate situation.

Ultimately, a modern day super-session which manages to hang on to the heart and soul.

FINAL VERDICT: 710

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!