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.
Their follow up single, ‘Why Should I?’ (written by drummer Joe Martin) took on an even more melodic stance, tapping into a some great old style rock driven by some fine musicianship and even though the more commercial slant didn’t fit the expectations of everyone, it was their finest recording to date.
In addition to Covid-19 side lining all live shows – arguably the band’s bread and butter – Bid River suffered a potentially huge setback in early 2021 when vocalist Adam Bartholomew left the band. It wasn’t the first time Bartholomew had moved on (he briefly went AWOL during the recording of ‘Redemption’), but he’d reached a point where he could no longer commit to the band’s more intensive work ethic. A new frontman came in the shape of Adam Barron (previously of the Mick Ralphs Band and a familiar face from UK TV show ‘The Voice’) and he was an instantly great fit within the Big River family.
Not exactly announcing his arrival quietly, Barron is the sole writer of the band’s comeback single ‘Don’t Hold Out’ which, as you’d expect, is a massive showcase for his sizable vocal pipes. What fans probably wouldn’t expect is that the tune centres around his ukulele. Despite the uke being a beloved throwback to somewhere around 2013 and not being associated with Big River’s dirty blues rock sounds, he makes it work, adding extra layers of melody throughout in a way that shifts the rock element sideways into an almost dreamy pop underscoring the main riffs. You will, of course, find plenty of familiarity here too: Ant Wellman’s bass runs are muscular yet melodic and guitarist Damo Fawsett steps in with one of his biggest solos to date, throwing out bluesy notes that dominate the song’s second half. It’s new boy Barron who’ll likely leave the biggest impression though; from the outset, his very 70s approach to vocals shows off the kind of old style grit that Big River have always sought, with the kind of range that suggests years of training and practice.
This new phase of the Big River journey promises big things. You can take a listen to ‘Don’t Hold Out’ below.