Home Albums Album Review : ROBERT JON & THE WRECK – LAST LIGHT ON THE HIGHWAY ALBUM

Album Review : ROBERT JON & THE WRECK – LAST LIGHT ON THE HIGHWAY ALBUM

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So today, as I am writing this review, I am starting my fourth week of self -isolation and social distancing. Who would have known at the start of the year that Covid-19 would overtake all our lives and leave us stuck at home, contemplating ways to entertain ourselves and our families, keep our sanity and hope beyond all hope that we will come out the other side of this, fit, well and raring to pick up our lives again. I have certainly found myself doing that and during those 28 days have taken advantage of my time at home to revisit and re-engage with albums that have been sat in my collection for many years.

After all, my regular trips to the local record shop have been put on hold and also no more gigs to buy new music at so it only seemed right to do that. Then, lo and behold, an envelope arrives with some new music in it, from a band that I ashamedly had no prior knowledge of. That was that then, I made myself a coffee, put said disc in the stereo, got myself comfortable and pressed play.

Well, what a great decision that was. Ever since being a teenager I have revelled in that feeling of finding new music that just grabs you and pulls on your heartstrings as you slowly drown in the sweet sounds coming out of your speakers or headphones. Here was that feeling again. I have happily been in possession of “Last Light On The Highway” by Robert Jon & The Wreck for a week now and cannot put it down. It has got hold of my heart, my soul and won’t let go. These 11 tracks of audio delight have just blown me away. The sound the band have created is regal, majestic and every song has a serenity that creates a euphoric feeling throughout your body.

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The album itself has been self produced by Robert Jon & The Wreck and will be released to the world on the 8th May 2020. Their was then due to be a 44 date European tour throughout May and June to promote this release and for the band to record a new double live album, which I am guessing has now been postponed. Hopefully this will be rescheduled when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

As I said when the album arrived on my doorstep, I had no prior knowledge of the band so was amazed to see that they were conceived in 2011 and had such an extensive back catalogue including studio albums, live albums and EP’s. Could be an expensive find this one! They have consistently received accolades and rave reviews from the outset including winning “Best Live Band” at the Orange County Music Awards in 2013.

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Blues legend Joe Bonamassa has even been quoted as saying that they are “keeping the history of classic 60’s and 70’s rock alive for newer generations”. High praise indeed and completely warranted. The undoubted quality of their own musicianship and the high regard with which the band is held has seen them support many bands including Bonamassa himself, Eric Gales, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Rival Sons, The Cadillac Three, Black Stone Cherry, Walter Trout and many many more.

This really is an album that shimmers and shines from start to finish, it is full of swagger and melody with every track built to get your hips swinging. In fact from the opening guitar parts of “Oh Miss Caroloina” you know immediately you are in for something special. The track sets the album up perfectly, with Robert Jon Burrison’s sweet soulful vocals, the rich tone in the guitars, beautifully crafted harmonies, amazing chorus and heavy southern rock riffs, making it a song that will live on for generations. The searing guitar solo is just so heart wrenching and full of emotion it just needs hearing over and over again.

“Work It Out” is an elegant mixture of blues and soul that every time I hear it I find myself tweaking the volume knob further up and up. Coming complete with horns, saxophone, soulful background singers and full of emotionally charged vocals it is one of the most gorgeous tracks on the release.

“Can’t Stand It”, with it’s alluring 70’s vibe that has taken inspiration from The Eagles, has an infectious beat that just takes over your body. The gospel style backing vocals along with the guitar harmonies of Henry James and Burrison give the track a really uplifting happy tempo feel. This is almost in stark contrast to the lyrics which are about being left or ghosted by a significant other and the emotional wrangling that it involves.

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If ever a band have created an anthem for the live arena then Robert Jon and The Wreck have done it with “Tired of Drinking Alone”. You only have to hear the track to quickly imagine packed venues and crowds with lighters (or phone torches) in the air singing along. The sumptuous slide guitar work from Henry James is just out of this world and the quieter moment with just vocals and piano is equally sublime. Bourbon, Tequila and Wine are all name checked in the song so my advice is grab one and enjoy this masterpiece.

“Do You Remember”, written about reflecting on the old days and looking back on the good times when you were young, dumb and full of dreams kicks in with an almost Thin Lizzy style guitar riff. Swathed in more enchanting harmonious vocal parts, standout Hammond organ and a killer guitar riff that constantly fools you into thinking you are going to get a blistering, sweltering, barnstormer of a rocker when what you actually get is an imperial slab of Southern blues rock that takes your senses to the limit and then before you lose all control just pulls them back in check again to remind you have responsibilities now.

“This Time Around” is melodic, catchy and full of harmony and leads superbly into “Don’t Let Me Go” which reminds me of Blackberry Smoke at their best. Starting off with a monstrous riff from Henry James it is a bombastic rocker that deals with the fears of being too invested in a relationship. There are hooks aplenty, big choruses, massive vocals and scintillating guitars throughout a track that proves these boys can rock whenever they want to.

“One Last Time” really drops the pace down after the all out power of the track before. It starts out as a graceful ballad, complete with delicate guitar work that just accentuates the dreamy emotion filled vocals from Robert Jon. But then, just as you are grabbing you heart strings to keep them in check, you get smacked in the face with a monstrous guitar riff that creates a monumental end to the track.

The vocals soar, the guitar solo is finger sizzling hot and there right in front of you, in all its’ glory is a live epic. As if that wasn’t enough to leave you gasping for air, it is followed up with “Gold”, a brutally honest ballad, built around heart breaking lyrics and a guitar part that weeps as it plays the heartrending accompaniment behind Roberts soul searching vocals. For me this song is a benchmark moment in the album. I love a good power ballad and here we have something that in my opinion rivals those great 80’s ballads from Bon Jovi. The guitar work by Henry James is exemplary and so reminiscent of Richie Sambora at his best and when you hear it alongside the piano at the end it creates the most perfect climax to a breathtaking number.

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That takes us to the final two tracks on the album which are “Last Light on The Highway, Parts 1 and 2”. Part One is truly sensual and moving piece with just an acoustic guitar and Robert Jon’s vocals. Part Two builds like a classic Pink Floyd cut. I never ever saw the progressive vibe to this song coming at all but when you hear the first two and a half minutes or so which are just purely instrumental and so captivating you will know where I am coming from.

Think mellow Dream Theatre and you will get the idea. When Robert Jon’s vocals kick in you can really imagine Ian Gillan singing them as an obvious Deep Purple influence shines through. The string arrangement the band have used gives it extra feel and power and then there is the frantic build to what becomes a delicate and passionate finish, just immense and shows what great songwriters the band are. The soaring guitars through out are just to die for and it is another track that I cannot wait to hear played live as it just appears to have been written to be played out on stage. The band say the song took them on a ride they never thought they could go on, but boy am I glad they got a ticket and stayed on for the full journey.

So far, 2020 has thrown up some great albums and this is without any shadow of doubt going to be one of the best albums I am going to have the pleasure of hearing this year. It truly has everything, but most importantly, it is music made with feeling and it really grips you, which for me, is what music should do. As my album cover note says, “With bands like Robert Jon & The Wreck on the scene, the Southern Rock resurgence is shining brighter than ever before. This blues and country infused rock n roll quintet have been consistently delivering soaring solos, boogieing grooves, and, arguably perfect tunes across the continental USA and mainland EU since 2011. RJTW’s latest LP, Last Light on the Highway, provides yet another heaping helping of stellar Southern blues rock”. Says it all really.

 

LAST LIGHT ON THE HIGHWAY

Available on CD, Vinyl and Limited Edition Deluxe Coloured Vinyl (Blue & White Speckled) plus various bundles as well.

Pre-order now from www.robertjonandthewreck.com

 

LAST LIGHT ON THE HIGHWAY TRACKLISTING

Oh Miss Carolina

Work It Out

Can’t Stand It

Tired of Drinking Alone

Do You Remember

This Time Around

Don’t Let Me Go

One Last Time

Gold

Last Light On The Highway Part 1.

Last Light On The Highway Part 2.

 

ROBERT JON & THE WRECK ARE

Robert Jon Burrison – Lead Vocals and guitar

Andrew Espantman – Drums and background vocals

Steve Maggiora – Keyboards and background vocals

Henry James – Lead Guitar and background vocals

Warren Murrel – Bass

 

ROBERT JON & THE WRECK OFFICIAL ONLINE LINKS

https://robertjonandthewreck.com/

www.facebook.com/robertjonandthewreck/

www.twitter.com/rjandthewreck

www.instagram.com/robertjonandthewreck/

www.youtube.com/robertjonandthewreck

Review by Darren Smith for MPM

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