Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
The tendrils of darkness have pushed across the land hastening the westwards retreat of light ahead of the nighttide. It’s the time of year when the hours twixt dusk to dawn are in ascendancy.
Lanterns flicker and illuminations bring contenting patches of light to pierce the blackness. Hearths burn brightly to ward off the nocturnal demons.
High above the town, upon the rocky crags, distant melancholic coyotes howl, seeking the company of solitude, at the slenderest crescent of the waning moon. Their cries rise and fall in pitch; the very stirrings of the underworld. The new moon nears.
Porters wait patiently outside the town’s bar; they shuffle from foot to foot in the crisp night air as they await the expected arrival. Their breath clouding before them. The scene is set.
It’s a much-vaunted arrival, an advent of a kind. A celebration of all that’s good, honest and worthy. The Liberty Wagon resplendent in shimmering shades of copper and bronze, its V12 rumbling, rolls into town. It’s headlights blaze brightly; the light bouncing off the gleaming chrome. The Sons, the finest bad-assed bootleggers to hotfoot it from the Bristol badlands disembark; a soulful musical deal has been struck and they’re here to honour their side. It’s a deal that’s been done down at THE crossroads; well heck no back-country intersection has ever bore witness to letters being dotted and crossed on such matters. It’s just not how things work in these realms.
Moonshine, hauled ore; the crop from up yonder holler all brought in for trade alongside a whole lotta whiskey-drinking, hell-yeah industrious southern drenched rock n’ roll. First on, getting proceedings off to a fine start are Welsh southern rock bandits Coyote Creed. Once again a trio, I’ve yet to see them at full-strenghth, as their bass player remains missing in action. He’s gaining a mythical status right alongside Louisiana’s Rougarou and Wyoming’s Jackalope. Maybe one day our paths will cross.
Until then the trio, last seen opening up for the indomitable Jack J. Hutchinson, continue their fine form. This little ol’ band shoot right from the hip with a six-shot laced with country-phased soul and southern-drenched rocking. Hard-riffing set opener answers, in fine style, the question of what happens if you cross ZZ Top and the Quo? We’re off down to the roadhouse for ‘Sick, Sober & Sorry’ in the exalted company of the incomparable Lee Brilleaux whilst the slick slide intro of ‘Half A Pack Of Smokes’ heralds vocals in the vein of the offspring of Chuck Berry and Dave Edmunds. Throughout there are many hints of the influences that lie at the heart of the Creed; the Stones and Creedance Clearwater Revival in the gritty ‘Ride On’. All mashed up into a delightful potion that is washed down with monster closing track ‘Goes Down South’ that is delivered at a wildly careering pace.
The output from the stills has gone down well; it’s the fruits of the mine’s productivity next. Copper piping and yeast are loaded into the wagon whilst, on stage, the Jamie Porter Band bring it on with good ol’ fashioned honest heavy rock. They’re as hard the recently surfaced ore with their riffs chasing off the darkest of valley shadows. The guitar menacingly growls in a bluesy sort of Motorhead kind of way as ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ kicks off in an uncompromising manner. Underneath his monogrammed leather hat Jamie harnesses the wild six-string beast to complete effect. The crowd are right into it and the instantly accessible chorus is sung right back. Such are the deliciously barbed hooks of this North Wales trio’s material; the wiliest of carp would not be able to resist.
The rugged tones of ‘Where We Belong’ conjure up imagery of hammering along the dark, remote freeway. It’s gravelly yet somehow delicately delivered.
It’s a cracking set that is harvested, in the main, from recent release ‘MMXXI’ with sole non-album track ‘Hero’ heartfeltly dedicated to the members of both the armed forces and emergency services. ‘The Last Train’ is right out of the sand-blasted epicentre of the dustbowl; amongst the mesas and buttes the desert dogs engage in lunar worship.
‘Ready For Action’ alloys two of Yorkshire’s finest rock exponents with a nod towards both Saxon and Def Leppard; hard rock steel of fine quality. The unpretentious and industrious ‘Touch The Sky’ wraps up an engaging set that has bore witness to 40 minutes passing in the very blink of an eye. It’s eight tracks have been warmly and loudly received by the hugely appreciative gathering of rabble-rousers. There’s much potential within both supporting acts.
Thus, with liquor and metallic ore taken in, it’s high time that the ‘special something’ from up on the holler is unleashed. It’s time for The Sons to become the preachers and deliver a fiery, igneous sermon from the very southern depths. It’s their last show of the calendar, one last time for the Liberty Wagon to haul them homewards, and a show made all the more special as it’s a hometown show for evergreen vocalist Rob Cooksley who hails from nearby Caldicot.
Opening a catering sized can of ‘Hell Yeah’ the Sons of Liberty are right into the thick of the action with a triple rapid fire salvo with the opening trio of tracks from 2019s ‘Animism’. An explosive ‘It’s My Bad’, rattling rafters for miles around, creates a firestorm which is fueled by the highly-flammable coupling of ‘Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief’ and ‘Up Shit Creek’. The twin Gibson Les Pauls of Andy ‘Moose’ Muse and Fred Hale entwine and eminate that familiar growl atop a oh-so solid foundation that is lain down by precision sticksman Steve Byrne and his ever-reliable partner in rhythm bassist Mark Thomas. Whilst out front and pretty much right across the expanse of the stage Rob powers his howling vocals heavenwards. The adjacent valleys will have got the message by now ….. “The Sons are in town!”
The Sons travel far and wide these days and off the back of two separate trips to HRH and HRH ABC in Great Yarmouth before heading north of the border to Winterstorm they’re in fine, fine fettle. It’s been a long, hard road to this juncture but after a brace of cracking EPs and a pair of long players a very high bar has been set.
All four releases are represented herein; in a 17 track set that weighs in at close to 90 minutes The Sons are able to play exactly half of their recorded output. Such is the depth and breadth that it’s now a taxing conundrum as to what is left out not what is needed to fill out.
The deservedly Planet Rock playlisted ‘Damaged Reputation’ with its snarling six-strings and the bluesy southern balladic ‘I Come In Peace’ perfectly showcase their most recent release ‘Aces & Eights’. A surefire contender for my top five albums of 2021.
Rob raises his hip-flask, taking a sip of bourbon elixir as Steve hammers the intro of ‘Dixie Whiskey’. No beaujolais required here; the JD-infused riffs is all that is needed.
‘Brotherhood’, right off 2018s ‘Shinola’ EP, is heavied up in thumpingly good fashion. This track with it’s AC/DC undercurrent crossing over into a Southern-drenched swagger remains, quite rightfully, at the very heart of what these bunch of Bristolian outlaws are all about. Brothers and sisters stand shoulder to shoulder unfalteringly.
The utterly riotous foot-stomper ‘Beef Jerk Boogie’ injects some humour into the evening. We’re off to Rosedale as the Sons pay their respect to Cream; you see it’s all about that crossroads. The succulent pairing of ‘Aged In Oak’ tracks ‘Damned If You Do’ and the anthemic ‘If It Ain’t Southern’ ramp up the atmosphere in time honoured style. Well it sure is Southern rock and it most certainly is rock n’ roll! No need to mess about with an encore The Sons truck powerfully through an incendiary ‘Fire and Gasoline’ before tearing up the stage with a powerhouse ‘Ruby Starr’. It’s one almighty “Hell Yeah!” and the holler’s special ‘something’ has truly hit the very spot.
All trade done the Liberty Wagon is filled to the brim with the hard earned spoils for the trip back home through the night. Out in the dark a distant howl punctuates the still air. The badlands are calling.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM