Ok, I will open with some honesty here as I was very nervous pressing play on this one. Last release “Broken Man” was such a phenomenal album I was struggling to see how it could be beaten but I have since given myself a huge slap for even doubting this band and have had it on constant repeat since that day.
As my shaky hand pressed play on opening track “Up in Smoke” I was instantly settled but also intrigued as I could already feel a different direction going on. Do not get me wrong the whisky drenched blues vibe is there by the bucketful but there is so much more. Matt Long has recently unveiled a rock side project which may have had a knock on effect to the sound and this is instantly proved on next track “Break Me Down” which to my ears sound a whole lot like local(for me) legends King King. It is upbeat, it is as fierce as the blues can get and it sounds like Bonamassa at his absolute peak. I am already desperate to see this live.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZQhq-7yVgE&w=560&h=315]
“Ghosts” is the first track to feature Paul Long on vocals and it fits perfectly, his voice tells the story of age and a life of pain. The opening lyrics of “Everybody is a haunted house” tells the story of the song. It is haunting and very beautiful.
Two songs from two very different world as “The Root of all Evil” kicks in and this has a riff that Tony Iommi wished he had come up with. This is blues as heavy as it comes, it has a southern edge that you would associate with Black Stone Cherry and…it will kick your ass. The keys breakdown is incredible and took me back to classic Jon Lord on all those classic Purple tracks.
Five songs in and I think I have found my new favourite Catfish Track in “Soulbreaker”. If there was a play book on how to write the perfect blues track this would be on the cover. This is slow, sultry, smokey and just awesome. This is a song that would have had the people say music is from the devil. That slow beat, the slide guitar and Matt’s gravely voice takes this song to the depths of hell but leaves you in blues heaven.
“Too Far to Fall” fell slightly short for me. It was upbeat blues tied to a pop feel but just did not get my juices flowing but it may still be a grower. “archangel” on the other had was perfect. It slowed things right down, the guitar was perfection and the drum sound was beautiful from Kevin Yates.
“The Big Picture was a distorted thing of beauty. The fuzz on that guitar was incredible and made the whole song. This was another King King sounding track and considering that band have been a love of mine for close to seven years that is a very big compliment. Once again the slide guitar is there in all its glory but with that distressed, almost murdered sound it puts a whole new edge on things.
On “Under The Gun” we are back to some cool riffage, it is a modern blues song with some excellent vocals once again. We have what seems to be a visit back in time to the Dave Lee Roth band with some excellent Billy Sheehan bass and some incredible Stevie Vai guitars. I love how much Catfish have grown on this album, they have shaken the blues tree and the fruits falling are exquisite.
Penultimate track “One More Chance” is basically a ballad that is just piano and vocals. I suspect this will not make the live show but it is a beautiful track and then there was one song left!
I have to admit the first thing I done when I got this album was look at the track timings. If you think this is strange you just need to think back to the previous album where the longer tracks were all my favourites and track closer “Make it Rain” was just sublime, if you have not seen this song live you are missing something very, very special so when I clocked that “Exile” came in at 10 minutes and was the final track I had my hopes for something that could at least come close…unfortunately I was wrong as this song outdoes “Make it Rain” by a mile. Firstly it is a self penned song so that gives it a whole different feel.
I had so many thoughts when I first listened to this song, the way it weaves, the way it tells such a brilliant story, the haunting guitar but it was the influences that were entwined within this composure that struck me most. There is no stealing here, it is just where the writers heart and soul are. It is like Catfish’s foundations, the place where they have built everything from. There are definite Rainbow influences throughout but for me the vibe running trough the heart of the song like Blackpool through rock is Irish. I do not suspect this would resonate with many people but the slow start could be Gary Moore, his raspy vocals, that slow guitar flick is pure Moore and when the guitar kicks off I can see Rory Gallacher if I close my eyes and then when we get to the Exile part Thin Lizzy is there in front of me.
Three Irish legends in one song, past masters who no longer grace even the stage of life and every one embodied here in what could be the best recorded 10 minutes in the last decade. I could have written a lengthy review around this song alone it is so good and now I am desperate to see it live.
Burning Bridges is without a shadow of doubt the best blues album of 2019 and right now it is in my top two albums of all genres for the year. I have not been able to stop playing it and I know without a shred of doubt this album will be with me for the rest of my life. It will be my go to album for Catfish and probably blues. If an alien landed in my garden and ask me to explain blues I would just play Burning Bridges…it is a masterpiece.
Review Ritchie Birnie