The Red Shades-
Shake Your Bones
Leeds boys create a tight and fuzzy blues-rock, that has its heart a lot further west.
Shake Your Bones
is available at
THERE is a growing clan of blues-rock innovators...
coming from the north. I was won over cleanly by Jonnythefirth's sounds recently. Hailing from Wakefield, he managed to portray a genuine love and affection for the blues-rock stylings of the likes of The Von Bondies, The White Stripes, and current mainstays The Black Keys. Like those bands, Jonnythefirth is an authoritative songwriting; adept at weaving together curious and chaotic riots of electronic wail, with restrained and pleading guitar licks. The vocals for all of the bands tend to stray close to what Jack White began in 1999, and is still plying strongly, today. There is a similar howl and tone to the vocal lines, and not a great deal of diversity, with regards to vocals. The songs have range and different colours, but there does seem to be a standardised vocal pitch and presentation when trying to convey a blues-rock sound. It is the nature of blues in general that sounds, vocals, words and chords are 'borrowed' from other artists; given a shine and updated to fit a personal analogy. It is hard to say just how original White's chords are, considering his passion and admiration for the old blues masters such as Son House and Blind Wille McTell. The way he stands out, as do a lot of his contemporary followers, is by eliciting a raw and exhilarating sound, and mixing that with personal and well-crafted songs on life, love, the city streets, and interlinking plot-line. Predominantly the blues-rock genre has been focused around the U.S., and states such as Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and a great proportion of the Midwest. Of course there has been no shortage of U.K. blues-rock legends either, if you look back. The Rolling Stones and The Animals began back in the '60s; even The Beatles attempted the genre, predominantly during the Abbey Road/Let It Be period. It was during this period where U.S. legends such as Bob Dylan and The Doors were showing how it should be done, and was an art form that was a little less common around the British shores. During the '70s and '80s, there was a little bit of campaigning from the U.K., but it was the Americans whom were still the world leaders, and were keeping the genre firmly at home. In fact since the '60s there have been so few genuinely talented blues-rock bands or acts from our end of the world. It has only been over the last year or so, that there has been a resurgence and recapitulation, of sorts. I have seldom heard of much blues-rock activity in the capital. There are some rumblings down the south coast, and a few in the Black Country. It seems to be the north, and specifically Yorkshire, that is producing a new crop of U.K. talent, whom seem intent on breaking away from the hard rock/pop parable; instead proffering and teasing a much rarer and tantilising sound. I mentioned before, that the reason why this is occurring, may hark back to the older industries that were present in Yorkshire. Until fairly recently, a lot of the economic power and a lot of the workforce were employed in the mines, and specifically coalmines. Jonnythefirth is from Wakefield, where The National Coalmining Museum is, and I suspect, that there is a musical connection. Where as the blues originated from the slave workers in the American south, whom would sing their songs in the field, subsequently the U.S. black blues legends, took on that history and continued its work, only changing the themes of the songs. That blues core, was then infused with the harder rock sound, and created a modernised version of the blues singers of the '20s, '30s and '40s. In the U.K., traditionally blues-rock was taken up by more well-off bands based in the south; rather than those situated near to Yorkshire. There was a slight shift during the '70s, but it is following the influx of U.S. blues-rocks bands such as The White Stripes, and the closure of the coalmines in Yorkshire, that has utilised native musicians, to pick up their guitar, and forge a similar path.
The Red Shades stick to the tradition of having 'The' and a colour of some degree, to their moniker. The White Stripes and The Black Keys did; and now our Leeds folk have too. They have an influence of heavy rock to their sound as well, able to infuse some American flavour, with a meatier and more domineering thud. They have been celebrated by many fans and reviewers alike, for being able to proffer a wide range of styles from song to song; switching from toe-tapping melody, through to hard-rock groove. The band consist of guitar and vocal leader Dom Bennison; bass player and vocal deputy Cam Beattie, and drum master Matt Bennison. Since 2012, the boys have been honing and shaping their sound, winning plaudits from beyond the Yorkshire borders. Their debut album, Shake Your Bones, is released on June 29th, and ahead of that, they have unleashed the title track, which provides a beautiful glimmer of what the associative album will sound like. For anyone expecting a too-close-for-comfort approximation of The White Stripes will be pleasantly surprised, as there are clear and unwavering tones of the U.K. and the '60s and '70s legends, in their sound.
There is no inlaying guitar and drum intro; instead the vocal hits hard right from the start. With a proclamation of "Love me once/Love me twice..", the nature of the lyrics suggests a classic '60s pop model, maybe early-career The Beatles. The vocal power maybe hints at John Lennon at his most powerful (Twist and Shout, perhaps), but has a soul hint to it. The ensuing musical rumble dispels any expectation with regards to a soul/funk line; it is relentless and pulverising and definitely born of the '90s blues-rock model. The guitar punches and swagger, with a slight arpeggio edge; whilst the bass is keeping the rabble in order, the percussive clatter would make the likes of Dave Grohl green. There is a definite electricity and kick to it, that is not only a distinctly individual sound, but also employs enough shadings of U.S. rock and blues; together they are blended to form a singularly explosive passage. When he vocal returns, there is a continuation of the theme, as it is explained: "You fool me once/You fool me twice...", complete with impassioned and throat-shredding vocals. The structure is quite a rarity for modern music in general and not just with regards to blues-rock from Yorkshire. Normally bands, and new bands especially, play it safe/traditional with an: intro-verse 1-chorus-verse 2-chorus-verse 3-chorus-outro formation. There may be some deviation and a little bit of switching here and there, but by and large, there is a solid and formulaic model. It is a reliable and solid structure, but one that few acts deviate from. With an exclusion of an intro, and the decision to have mirrored lyrical themes interspersed with blustery, fuzzy blues passages, in the early stages, is an unexpected and worthy decision. Instantly any expectation is subverted. The nature of the beast changes past the 0:30 mark (effectively it seems that the preceding was an intro, of sorts), with a more subdued, but no less potent vocal. The lyrical theme and formation may be modified, but the band are not ready to relent with regards to the explosive musical subterfuge. The vocal is hard to pin down, with regards to comparable. It is a powerful and growling blues monster, that could as easily be at home helming a Grunge or metal track. As the atmosphere builds, contorts and rips like an earthquake, amidst the rubble our front-man asks what it will take "to shake your bones". Past the mid point, there is a further shift. The guitar takes centre stage, as a nibble Van Halen-esque arpeggio is presented, with some hints of Slash and mid-career Clapton in the mix, as well. That mutates and blends with the blues-rock passage, and combined a whirlwind of sound is present, that at once is crowd-pleasing and anthemic, and the next dangerous and brooding. It chugs along, and carries to with it, and prepares you for what is to come. The band spare their words and let the sound paint a thousand words, as around 1:48 there is some guitar and bass play that reminded me of No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age; the riffage that preceded this is hardly a slouch when compared with QOTSA's most memorable hit. There is a mixture of No One Knows, together with solo album Jack White; maybe Sixteen Salteens-cum-I'm Shakin'. In fact that not-too-disparate kinship of QOTSA and White plays a big part in the closing moments; you could almost this kind of propulsive rock drive appear on the new QOTSA album (also due for release in June). Not in a bad way; in a very good way, there just seems to be that similar flair and bare-knuckle smash to it. The vocal returns to chorus the song's title; combined deftly with the music; nestling in nicely and seeing it through to the end. At under two-and-a-half minutes long, it is incredibly tight and short track, but manages to make a big impression.
The band have their debut out next month, and recorded on a small budget, and containing similarly sparkling and daring tracks, it is a refreshing sea change from a lot of current bands. There is unpredictability and skillful songwriting nestling with good ol' grunt and passion. The band are a professional, tight and talented trio, that deserve a huge subscription in the lead up to their album release. They have already been hailed by BBC Introducing as a hot band to watch, and on the evidence of the album's title track, it is well-founded, too. Blues-rock is not a form of music that is too prevalent in these parts, and has not been this exciting and relevant since the '60s and '70s. The track is a lot of sound and electricity, with few words, but it works well and has the right ratio of both to make sure that the song triumphs. It would be pleasing to think that there will be a lot more similar bands following on in the next few years. Of course the problem is, that once a band and style of music has been embraced, there is a wake of unoriginal and pointless acts, distilling the effect and sounding so similar as to infuriate. It is plain that The Red Shades will inspire some fellow bands to unleash some similar sounds, but I hope above everything...
THAT The Red Shades are embraced as fervently as is deserved.