Review by Monty Sewell for MPM
There has never been a time when the gathering of icons didn’t peak interest. Usually met with both excitement and skepticism in equal dosage, it’s especially rife in the music industry where loyalty to lineups is delicate and opinion harsh.
But when the people concerned are Warren Haynes, Eric Gales, Lance Lopez, Robben Ford, Walter Trout, Billy F Gibbons and Chris Duarte to name a few, it was hard to imagine a space where whatever was produced would be anything less than poignant.
I’m talking of course about Supersonic Blues Machine, the tour de force of blues rock that’s currently riding every high wave current across the globe. With the original core members consisting of drummer Kenny Aronoff, bassist Fabrizio Grossi and guitarist/vocalist Lance Lopez, they called upon those previously mentioned musicians as helping hands on their first record.
It was well received and gave them a well deserved seat at the upper echelons of respected band formations. But now, with Lopez gone and Kris Barras of The Kris Barras band taking up the helm as the trios frontman, new album release ‘Voodoo Nation’ marks the start of a new era of the band. (Though Barras featured on their previous album Road Chronicles: Live!’, this marks their first studio album together).
Released on Mascot Label Group/Provogue after dropping the two single teaser earlier this year, Supersonic Blues Machine had promised ‘Voodoo Nation’ to be bigger and better than its predecessors.
With the notable lack of previous bad projects between them and Barras’s ever rising star, I speak for many when I say we were very much eager to see what this record would bring.
The first three tracks one the record are pure Supersonic Blues Machine suave. Before the band bring aboard their collaborators, it seems they’ve used these openers, ‘Money’, ‘Too Late’ and ‘Coming Thru’ to introduce Barra’s addition to the group on both guitar and vocals.
Straight in there with a spine tingling solo on ‘Money’, I got an immediate sense of (unsurprising) security that this ride was going to be a damn good one. Barras’s vocal husk has relentless energy and though we already knew his talent is permeating, it’s elevating to hear it against this slightly different musical scenery.
Harlem born bluesman King Solomon Hicks joins the guys as the first collaborating artist on ‘You And Me’. It’s a classically arranged blues piece that lends much to Hicks’ adulated status in the industry and even more to the pristine production on the album (a very much recurring feature throughout its entirety).
‘Get It Done’ with Josh Smith harbours quite a 60s vibe with its use of keyboard overdubbing and phoneticising backing vocals before ‘8 Ball Lucy’ graces us with an elongated, jam-like solo finish featuring guitarist Sonny Landreth.
The new steadier set pace continues into ‘Devil At The Doorstep’ which is as powerful as it is soul reaching. Eric Gales assists here as well as the choir vocal uplift and interesting pedal work on the guitars.
Once again I want to reiterate the fantastic production at work here. ‘Is It All’ opens with what sounds like a programmed drumbeat with an almost contemporary pop like twist. But below the distorted guitar noodles and Barras’/Joe Louis Walker’s vocals, it works within the intended genre with an easy groove.
‘Do It Again’ is absolutely supereminent; a total highlight on the record that is both wildly fun and well crafted. Ana Popovic lends her usual high standard of playing. ‘I Will Let Go’ with Kirk Fletcher is a summertime easy goer which crescendos into a choir sung prestigious piece of music.
The title track, ‘Voodoo Nation’ is well deserving and ambitiously written with reviving results whilst last song ‘All Our Love’ with Charlie Starr trains along after with its western feel roots. A harmonica finish is the cherry on top of an all round fantastically procured album.
‘Voodoo Nation’ marks itself as the studio evidence that Supersonic Blues Machine is here to stay as much as it will continue to grow and develop its current sound. We all knew Kris Barras was a fine choice to front the band but to see it and to finally hear it all in action solidifies that point with no doubt in the mind.
With the continuous use of outside musicians to write alongside them they remove themselves from ever being pigeon holed or strapped down to a single lane genre. Aronoff, Grossi and Barras are a grand amalgamation who soon will be taking those headline arena billings with ease.
- Too Late
- Coming thru
- You And Me (feat. King Solomon Hicks)
- Get It Done (feat. Josh Smith)
- 8 Ball Lucy (feat. Sonny Landreth)
- Devil At The Doorstep (feat. Eric Gales)
- Is It All (feat. Joe Louis Walker)
- Do It Again (feat. Ana Popovic)
- I Will Let Go (feat. Kirk Fletcher)
- Voodoo Nation
- All Our Love (feat. Charlie Starr)
Download, pre-order the album at https://lnk.to/SSBM