Genre – Rock / Blues
Star rating 8/10
This is the South London rockers’ eleventh album and it’s a good one. This release followed their successful appearance on the Bourbon Street Jazz and Blues stage at Glastonbury. Here they take the gloves off and give us a real rock feast, full of main songwriter Gary Boners’ dark parables of devils, angels, bad spirits and voodoo, death, disease and destruction- to lighten the mood there are some excellent side dishes of country and Latin as well. They’ve made several albums and good ones at that, but this is ‘the’ one; their best. Bandleader Boner certainly understands programming; the pacing is very good throughout. The album kicks in, lifts off, and moves straight into top gear; with the ZZ Top flavoured opener ‘Too Tired to Pray’ and it’s a cracker –Boner’s deep baritone growl sets the dark mood for the whole show ‘Let me tell the difference between pleasure and pain, some people would tell you that they’re both the same’ he growls – it’s a very dark account of spiritual exhaustion. It works; this track has got it all, and its FM friendly, but not ‘too’ friendly, some on the team would have preferred a less 80’s drum sound, but it is what it is. The Roadhouse girls, Mandie G, Kelly Marie Hobbs and Suzi D are in very good form; it suggests that they worked very hard at those vocals, and its paid dividends. On guitar Danny Boy Gwylm has to be one of the most tasteful players around, he lays great slide and regular guitar on this opener and manages to be both tasteful and kicking the same time – ‘Too Tired to Pray’, look out for that one! It rocks and it rolls as well.
A neat piece of programming and the album moves into Country – ‘Rainmaker’ – ‘Rainmaker’s coming’ goes the chorus, it’s catchy, it’s a song for driving, and, being replete with Danny’s excellent country licks – is very good – Roots and Country radio stations should get this one programmed in. Track three is the album’s noire epic, the Title track ‘Dark Angel’– Boner paints a sound picture; a dark lonely road at late twilight, death and destruction all around, (so it’s definitely South London), there’s fear, anxiety and distrust with only a dark angel to look to for hope. ‘Now on this dusty highway, with the legion of the damned, my friends they all just spit on me…’ sings Boner; its dark indeed…with lashings of electric guitar and the very nice touch of some acoustic nicely placed neatly in the mix. It’s a very good track. The excellent cover by the renowned Album cover artist Vaughan Oliver was possibly inspired by this track. The cover picture is enigmatic, as if we’re in motion and travelling a tree lined highway at night, a menacing figure appears through the trees, it’s fascinating – think ‘Blair Witch’ in colour and you’ll get a clue.
The title track is followed by a song with the classic Bo Diddley beat; the voodoo tinged ‘Swamp Girl’, great live track this; then it’s back to the country for ‘Tornado’a catchy country-rock song with another dark lyric. Moving to the close we find the most commercial track on the set its ‘So Over You’, a Santana-ish /Latin flavoured tune that Kelly Marie Hobbs had a hand in writing. The penultimate track has the great title ‘Working Class Gospel Drinking Blues’; you really can’t miss with a title like that – it’s good and has a catchy chorus that recalls Pink Floyd tune. The album closes with a re-recording of a Roadhouse live favourite ‘Tellin’ Lies’ it’s a butt-kicking end to a very good set with Danny Gwilym’s guitar an outstanding feature throughout.