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Album Review : Southall: Southall

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

Southall are a new band to me, but apparently were formerly known as the Read Southall Band and hail from Oklahoma. They play an eclectic mix of Country-Rock, Southern Rock and soulfully tinged Alt-Rock and were last seen in the UK touring with legendary Southern Rockers, Blackberry Smoke.

This album is the first under the new name, although they have three under the previous moniker, one of which contained a gold-certified single entitled ‘Why’, so they clearly have some pedigree.

Listening to Southall, it’s abundantly clear why Blackberry Smoke brought them on tour. Opening up with the classic Country of ‘The Score’ which is all acoustic guitars, aching dobro and delicate Country melodies which are delivered in a wonderfully deadpan Southern drawl.

This is followed by the rollicking uptempo ‘When You’re Around’ which is Country-Rock of the classic kind, filled with gritty, gnarly guitars and infectious melodies and harmonies. It’s a wonderful sound that has its roots in the 1970s but just never dates due to the timelessness of it all.

‘Out Alive’ rocks harder, with quite filthy guitar riffs and classy Southern Rock vocals. This one simply begs to be played loud while drowning your sorrows in moonshine and beautifully represents the harder side of the band’s sound.

‘By Surprise’ keeps the tempo up and includes more of those deliciously dirty guitars. This one has quite a different feel. It almost feels like an unholy union of Country-Rock and early 2000s Alt-Rock and is really very cool indeed with a wonderfully bouncy bass and drum figure against which the guitars chop and chime. Different, and very, very good!

‘One Day At A Time’ is next and builds some wonderfully soulful melodies, bluesy guitar fills and delicate guitar sounds into the mix on a lovely mid-tempo affair which relies on melody and soulful vibes to drive it along. There is a lovely guitar solo here too, all aching bends and delicate vibrato.

‘Scared Money’ follows and brings in some classic early Eagles style Country Telecaster picking into a 12-bar influenced Rock n Roll fest which is a load of fun. It is followed by the rip-roaring uptempo Alt-Rock sounding anthem ‘All I Have’ which has an almost Michael Stipe quality to some of the vocals and driving guitars.

‘Spit It Out’ is next and is a delightful soulfully bluesy ballad which admirably demonstrates one of Southall’s biggest strengths; that is, their delightfully unfussy arrangements. Nothing is overcooked here, with each instrument being given its own space to breathe. The result is a set of songs that will stand or fall on the strength of the writing and performances rather than being propped up in studio production trickery. ‘Spit It Out’ is the perfect example of this. A lovely song, well-written and well-performed.

The Country-Rock returns with a vengeance on the Southern firecracker that is ‘Get Busy Til It’s Done’ which throws multi-layered vocal harmonies, gnarly slide guitar licks and twanging riffs into a thunderous bundle of Country Rock n Roll fun, with elements of classic Southern Rock tomfoolery as slide guitars, lead guitars and organ vie for space in the closing instrumental playout.

The acoustic guitars return on ‘Ain’t Ever Gonna Change’ which returns to a more Countrified sound, although within an almost Alt-Rock ballad structure. I love the way that Southall blend their various influences into these tracks while at the same time never sounding like anyone other than themselves. This more acoustic vibe continues into album closer ‘Short and Sweet’ which is a very delicate piece of uptempo acoustic Country-Rock and reminds us again of Southall’s versatility.

Well, this was a lovely surprise. This is a very varied, yet still wonderfully cohesive body of work which will appeal to fans of Blackberry Smoke, The Eagles and Alt-Rock acts like The Gin Blossoms. If any of those acts light your fire I’d suggest that you give Southall a listen pronto. Very enjoyable indeed! The band are touring the UK in February 2024 as follows:

19 Feb 2024 Glasgow UK Oran Mor
21 Feb 2024 Birmingham UK O2 Academy 3
22 Feb 2024 Manchester UK Deaf Institute
23 Feb 2024 London UK Bush Hall

Listen here: https://found.ee/southallalbum

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