Over the couple of years before the global pandemic forced everything into lockdown, UK blues rock band Big River found their profile steadily rising. The release of their debut album ‘Redemption’ showcased a band who were much better than their early singles – all huge riffs and overtly macho lyrics suggested – when mixing their grittier elements with a few more AOR-centric rockers and a couple of soulful rock ballads.
At the beginning of 2021, Black Pistol Fire released their sixth album ‘Look Alive’. A hugely welcome return for the garage/blues rock duo, it was their most commercial recording to date with a fuller sound drawing more influence from The Black Keys than their previous Jack White obsessions.
Somewhere near the beginning of their career, blues duo Black Pistol Fire released ‘Big Beat ’59’, a raw as hell album that cast them in a musical mould somewhere between The White Stripes and The Dead Exs. It didn’t always show a lot of invention in terms of garage blues, but it had a lot of balls, resulting in the kind of rough and ready record that should’ve appealed to all lovers of the style. The albums which followed showed a slight musical progression each time, along with a slightly slicker sound and the suggestion of a slightly bigger budget. This culminated in the release of 2017’s ‘Deadbeat Graffiti’ where the expected Black Pistol Fire raucousness was tempered by far more of an indie rock/blues hybrid sound in places. It was a sound that suited the band well, and on tracks like ‘Fever Breaks’ and ‘Bully’ they even appeared to give Arctic Monkeys a run for their money.
When you’ve made most of your reputation as a live act, it’s a massive blow when a global pandemic dictates that you can’t go out and deliver riffs to the masses. This less than ideal situation drove 20 Watt Tombstone back into the studio at the end of 2020, breaking a five year silence of recorded work. While the results aren’t exactly plentiful, they’re more than welcome, since this pair of recordings reacquaint listeners with their no-nonsense, self-described “death blues” sound and of their chief influences. ‘Year of The Jackalope’ brings together a pair of cover tunes delivered in dirty and typical 20 Watt style, acting as both a welcome return for fans and a brilliant introduction for others.
Brass Owl unleashed their self-titled debut album in the summer of 2018. While that record was loaded with great riffs and showed promise, it was also fatally flawed. More than great riffs are needed to create great songs and their song writing wasn’t always the most memorable. Also, in frontman Brian Tarter, the band seemed to be hampered by a vocalist who often…overstretched himself.
Unfortunately, since Tarter also supplies those great guitar riffs and actually represents fifty percent of the band on 2020’s ‘State of Mind’, Brass Owl are sort of stuck with him. As a result, it is another album where a massive amount of promise is evident, but the genuine quality doesn’t always come through.