Long gone are the days when blues were the sole preserve of legendary figures like Robert Johnson and David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, the genre ever expanding from those deep roots as it grows and blossoms. Blues can be as much about attitude as the music, although some purists may argue, the sense of a real human connection that brings joy or sadness shaping the whole, regardless of any perceived strict constructs.
There are things that most certainly seem miles away from these pioneers (modern R&B anybody) but from the stripped down, laid bare acoustic guitar and voices of Johnson and Co through to the big band swagger of BB King or even newer acts like Joe Bonamassa, blues has many forms like saplings cut from that great oak.
No-one would have pinned Norwich to be a centre of blues in England, despite its rural and hand to the plough feel, but it has its fair share of outstanding artists whose passion for the music has a much deeper authenticity than Kanye and Co.
Along with the brilliant Dove & Boweevil Band, one of the fair city’s biggest talents are five piece Little Red Kings and with ‘The Magic Show Part One’ they have produced something that should rightly feature in the ‘Best Of 2020’ lists for many a music aficionado.
One of the best and hottest bands on the circuit, they have managed to bring the charisma of their live shows into the studio and produced something that has no uncertain amount of class and elan but also a real spark.
Opener ‘Harry’s Town’ kicks off the album with a bit of good time rock ‘n’ roll that captures the vibe of the Stones partying with Bad Company, frontman Jason Wicks leading the band with grit and swagger.
There’s a change of pace on second track ‘Almost Over’ as it heads down a joyful melding of 60’s and 70’s rock, the keys of Craig Stevenson driving and lifting the track as the guitars of Wick and Dougie Archer dance a mad dervish whirl as it reaches ever higher.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql8OD30driU&w=560&h=315]
That’s What You Do’ is a big, scratchy bundle of wonderful rock and roll riffs and gutsy sound, played with a wild abandon that catches the spirit of their celebratory live shows perfectly and ‘Mama’s Boy’ is a slice of dirty, distorted primal blues that sounds like it was recorded in a subway.
Little Red Kings are never a band to rest on their laurels and when the beautiful ‘Weather the Storm’ comes along like a soul drenched kiss from a drunken angel you can’t help but fall in love as the piano and guest musician Rosie Toll’s violin wash over you. ‘Peppermint’ leans towards Tom Petty style Americana in its drive and none the less for it, Ben Beach’s bass and Harry Wickham’s drums bringing a tight but loose groove and ‘Lose the Light’ brings to mind the honest, blue collar rock of Springsteen at his rawest.
Yet another change of tack with the atmospheric, spoken word over lightly swinging keys of ‘Norfolk Border’, the whole giving a fantastically and haunting atmosphere to the piece. It seems like the blink of an eye when we reach album closer ‘Magic Show’, each track having blown by in a whirl of cosmic fireworks.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23itgBFLfek&w=560&h=315]
Tender and delicate with a sense of time and space, this is blues viewed through a curtain of gauze and is a fine way to finish one of the most compelling albums in recent times.
A box of delightful wonders, we look forward to seeing what Part Two of the Magic Show brings as we survey and wrap the riches of this release around us. As near perfect an album as you could wish and one that shows that Little Red Kings are destined for greatness. Blindingly good
Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM