May Album of the Month

The Bluesbones

Spontaneous, fresh and from the heart. When a band of musicians have really got it, you feel it. Simple as that.

Every now and then in the rock scene I get the creeping feeling that sometimes bands are writing music for a market. Sometimes I feel the producers are shaping rather than finessing. And sometimes us fans can confuse calling albums as masterpieces when really we just want a band to do well. Both are fine but the two are not the same thing. With all this noise in the back of my mind, for May I’ve gone with an album that is all about how the music makes you feel. A band that play live together in the studio, the band members facing each other as they record their music. The product is an album that feels spontaneous, intuitive – with the musicians playing off each other, listening to each other and creating something in the moment. The magic is not in the virtuoso solos or the clever recording software in action. The magic is capturing the moment, the dynamic between the musicians and how it makes you feel. And isn’t that the point of what music should be about?

I’ve been through some dark moments in recent weeks and put my Friday show on pause. There was a point where I didn’t want to hear any music, I didn’t want to fill my head with noise, I just wanted quiet. And then I started playing a few CDs and, with hindsight, the music that I did end up playing was the music that spoke to me. I drifted a bit towards blues but, then again, I think most roads in rock ultimately lead back to the blues. And this album stayed on the CD player. It wasn’t the loudest, it wasn’t the cleverest or the most ’out there.’ But it did feel the most natural and true. Music from the heart, played well and with sincerity. And that’s why ‘Unchained’ stayed with me for the month. In strange times, it was the album that picked me.

To my shame, The BluesBones, have never really had the regular time they have warranted on my weekly show. They made their first impression during our Modern Rock Wellbeing Fest during lockdown, and they stood tall with us for our run of Rock Shows for Freedom last Spring – from which their song ‘Sealed Souls’ had a bit of a run. But in truth it is the new album ‘Unchained’ which made me stop and really give this band time. A fine album and for those that enjoyed the JD Simo and Ellis Mano Band releases earlier this year, I’m sure you will enjoy this fine new offering from Belgium band, The BluesBones.

The album opens well with ‘Chain Gang’ – it’s not a cheerful start but it certainly sets the mood. If you picture in your mind what a chain gang looks like, this song is the soundtrack to those images. You can hear the chains, there’s the rhythmic monotony of a working song and you can feel the parching, morning sun beating down. It’s vividly atmospheric and even the deep gravelly spoken-word passage adds to the mood. The song is both vintage and contemporary. It references America’s early history but one wonders whether it also touches on the inequalities in society today. People escaped to the land of the free but, for some, has it ever really been free?

‘Changes’ is up next and it’s an empowering song, with the Hammond adding depth. Many of the album songs are about facing changes in your life – “Dreaming of a better life / time to do things differently” – and after the COVID era many people will connect with the lyrics and sentiments.

Track three delivers the show-stopping moment with ‘I Cry.’ Originally inspired by losing a cat, the song just grew into something bigger – a song about losing someone you love. Everyone that has lost someone will relate to this song. The feeling of losing someone too soon, not being able to say goodbye properly. The missing, the helplessness, the emptiness – yet midst the sadness the song also captures something quite beautiful.

Whilst an orchestral version of this song is added at the end of the album, the original is simpler, more honest and truer. The song opens with piano which is wonderful in its simplicity, the vocal brings emotional power and then the band comes in as the song grows quite naturally. Many songs of this nature talk about the issues, but this song gets right inside the human condition – the feeling. The control here is masterful, power in simplicity, without being overblown. Wonderfully done.

If rock radio was based on great songs not the in-bands, this track would be all over the airwaves all summer. With us it will be – as it goes straight onto Modern Rock Vol 5.

After the heartbreak of ‘I Cry,’ we gear-change into a catchy ‘boogie saunter’ with ‘Time To Learn’ – a song that would certainly signal a sherry party with Simon and the gang down at Loverocks HQ. A song with its own life, once again the music is alive, the bass being the keystone throughout the song. The instrumental break and build mid-way through is sublime, rich in spontaneity. A song that underscores the magic you get when people record songs together live in the studio – and also reminds you what is missing when people record their parts on their own at different times.

‘Moving On’ brings the soul, a song for summer – a time of bloom, rebirth and new life. Some brass and sax added here, which adds to the feel-good vibe of the song. Once again, it’s all about the feel of the music.

 ‘The Road Ahead’ and ‘Talking To The Lord’ deliver a double dose of blues – the latter with an evangelical twist. Well executed songs, songs that start and finish well and deliver a punch in three minutes.

‘The Tale Of Big Tim Brady’ closes the album with narrative depth and then it’s time for a second helping of ‘I Cry’ with orchestral accompaniment. Great songs always deserve a second outing.

So there you have it. The heart of blues rock trumps the pounding beats of heavy rock this month. This album doesn’t break dramatic new boundaries in the evolution of guitar music, but that is only ever one lens through which one should appraise new albums. This is an album I could enjoy as much through a Hifi having a ‘serious listen’ as I could loading the dishwasher in the kitchen. It resonated in good days and bad and it was something my kids enjoyed in the car. That’s the joy of music beyond the tribal tastes of genres and fan groups. Digital folk and marketeers put music in jam jars but the truth of music is it doesn’t live in genres – it never has. Music is a universal language that knows no boundaries and it lives free of labels. Music can be simple, it can be clever – it can and should be different things to different people. But what The BluesBones deliver with ‘Unchained’ is music that has class, a natural truth and a living warmth. Music from the heart done well.

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