Those of you over the age of 55 (!) will probably remember Savoy Brown (originally the Savoy Brown Blues Band) from the late 1960's/early 1970's British blues boom. Frequently a class support act* for top bands (I saw them in the late sixties supporting Jethro Tull, then Nice), they only really took off big time in the States.
Founder member Kim Simmonds began his career in 1965, and is now the sole remaining member of the original group. Having decamped permanently to New York in the late 1970's, he has continued to make both acoustic and electric albums; more recently these have been released on the German Ruf Records label. The release of the electric Witchy Feelin' coincides with his current tour of the north-east USA, and with his 70th birthday I December.
The album continues in the blues-rock tradition that Kim has successfully mined for the past 50 years. He clearly identifies with the blues as the Devil's music - recent albums have included Voodoo Moon (2011) and The Devil to Pay (2015) - and he admits that "at least three of the songs on Witchy Feelin' have that voodoo vibe…".
The current line-up is a power trio of Kim (guitar/vox), Pat Desalvo (bass) and Garnett Grimm (drums). Although the classic Savoy Brown sound featured a vocalist and a second guitar - Chris Youlden and 'Lonesome' Dave Perrett respectively - Kim's current pared-down trio lacks none of the power of the early Savoy Brown. Perhaps what it does miss is some of the interplay between principals which I always thought made them a brilliant live band. That must be why Kim double-tracks guitar on several songs, including the great power-blues opener Why Did You Hoodoo Me.
Although, for much of its history, the band has had a vocalist, Simmonds is a good singer. Despite his Welsh origins, his baritone voice is strongly reminiscent of Mark Knopler (one of his admitted favourite singers) and fellow Geordie Chris Rea. This makes for a warmer and more laid-back vocal sound against the hard blues-rock of the lead guitar. This works particularly well on slow blues, such as Livin' on the Bayou and the title track, Witchy Feelin'. The latter track features some great left-hand vibrato and string-bending from Kim, and it's also good to hear the drummer play brushes, adding to the atmospheric feel.
Can't Find Paradise is unashamedly Hendrix, complete with "Hey Joe" riff and plenty of lead vibrato. This track is followed by Thunder, Lightning and Rain, another Hendrix style rock-blues work out, heavy with wah-wah pedal and string bending. Perhaps most tasteful, though, is the decision to end the album with an instrumental - Close to Midnight - which sounds like a long-lost Peter Green track from an early Fleetwood Mac album. Sheer Black Magic, man!
I Can't Stop the Blues has a more funk bass feel, with choppy guitar riff and searing lead soloing over the top. Simmonds is a versatile player and writer (he writes all his material). He can switch convincingly from power chords (Guitar Slinger) and bottle-neck (Standing in the Doorway) to good 'ole southern (Memphis Blues) and Elmore James (Vintage Man) boogie styles. As a result, this is an album that never falters in interest, being packed with different moods and blues styles. Who says that the blues isn't "good time music".
Here's a musician with the confidence to create a consistently varied and engaging sequence of songs which works as an album, not just a random list of downloadable MP3's! If you like the blues played and sung with character and style - albeit with a British accent, you couldn't do worse than buy this album. Strongly recommended.
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*note for nerds: Savoy Brown get a name check in Adrian Henri's tongue-in-cheek Liverpool Scene opus "I got the Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, John Mayall, can't fail blues" - in the second verse, of course!
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