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THE ROLLING STONES
Some Girls Live in Texas ‘78
Eagle Rock Entertainment

For most Stones fans the seventies weren’t the best period of the band’s career. They seemed to be following trends rather than staying true to their heart and soul. That being said there is a bit of charm to this vintage footage stored away in the vault for nearly 33 years. As the title states, the five-piece were on the road in the US supporting their 16th studio record Some Girls – an album made famous with the disco song “Miss You” and was the first album recorded with Ronnie Wood as a full member. When they rolled in to Texas mid-July 1978 the album had hit the No.1 spot on the US charts so the set list including six of the records ten tracks: “Miss You”, “When the Whip Comes Down”, “Beast of Burden”, “Shattered”, “Respectable” and “Far Away Eyes” as well as classics “Honky Tonk Women”, “Tumbling Dice”, “Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin Jack Flash”. Originally shot on 16mm film, the footage has been carefully restored and the sound remixed and remastered by Bob Clearmountain from the original multitrack tapes. This is undeniably the Rolling Stones in peak form.

Filmed at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 18th, 1978, it contains one of the more raw, energetic and back-to-basics performances of its time. Most of the concert is shot from the first row giving the viewer a sense if ‘being there’ as Ronnie Wood rips it up, a complement to Keith Richards, and showcasing his amazing slide technique. Keef stalks the stage with his signature moves while Jagger works the crowd into a frenzy and surprisingly, plays guitar more than usual. Charlie Watts is on fire, a raging ball of energy. An interesting note it that Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke actually played some of the drum parts on Some Girls. The statuesque Bill Wyman rarely moves but finds the groove and stays in the pocket all night. A stripped down affaire by today’s standards, it resonated a lean and mean band still enjoying the music and their public. The bonus features are plenty including a newly filmed interview with Mick Jagger, some the quirky Saturday Night Live bits with Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman, excerpts from ABC 20/20 and interview with Geraldo Rivera. A absolute must!

Website: Eagle Rock Entertainment

SLASH
Made In Stoke
Armoury Records

Slash is arguably the greatest working guitarist of our time, surpassing Eddie Van Halen by a long shot. To prove it we get the incredible double live CD Made In Stoke recorded 24 July 2011, produced by the band and recorded Ian Dyckhoff of Red TX sound and recording in the UK. From the opening track “Been There Lately” (on disc one) to G’N’R favorites “Nightrain”, ”Civil War” and “Sweet Child of Mine” (on disc two) the band is raging as Myles Kennedy mans the vocals and guitar, Todd Kerns thumps the bass, Brent Fitz pounds the drums and Bobby Schneck rocks the rhythm guitar with Slash’s signature riffs piled up high. Stoke was personal to Slash as he spent formative years a s a child playing on it’s cobble stone streets. He has family there and some showed up at the gig. The Victoria Hall is a smaller venue but what made it special was the crowd. Their enthusiasm is a testament to their dedication to the rock, after all Lemmy from Motörhead is also from Stoke. The music sparks with electricity and sonically captures the imagination of being there on that hot summer night.

The tour was in support of the debut ‘Slash’ solo album that had the guitarist teaming up with Fergie, Ozzy, Iggy and Lemmy. He met Myles Kennedy (of Alter Bridge) while working on the album and was convinced he was the perfect frontman for his live band. Kennedy steps up and not only nails “Ghost”, “Back from Cali” and “Nothing to Say” from the Slash disc but surprise the crowd with Snakepit’s “Mean Bone” and Velvet Revolver’s “Slither”. It’s already been noted how much the vocalist sounds like Axel but when “Mr. Brownstone” and “Paradise City” light up, its classic! Of course the real reason to check this out is Slash. The man is pure magic – emotional playing, subtle nuances and fierce riffage, all in one. The extended solo break on “Rocket Queen” is epic! With a set list custom designed just for this show, it amazing how integrated a career retrospective can be. It may not be the quintessential G’N’R ‘live’ record that we never got but it’s pretty damn close.

Website: Slash, Armoury Records

THE COLOURSOUND
Reclaim
Lazyeye Records

This record (EP) is a couple years old but it’s worth putting out there to the masses just in case you missed it the first time around. The Pennsylvania band (not to be confused with the supergroup that featured The Cult’s Billy Duffy and The Alarm’s Mike Peters) includes singer Doug Batt, guitarist Sean Hieter, drummer Patrick Wilson, and bassist Leni. They sound more English than American creating really good Brit-pop rock like a Western-influenced Starsailor. Maybe that’s why AMC and BBC used a selection of the group’s songs a few years ago for their summer campaign. One can’t help but drift back into the nineties when Oasis, Cold Play and Radiohead were just hitting the radio while listening to Reclaim. Opening track “Slowdown” begins with an electronic dance beat that merges into a fusion of acoustic strumming and Batt’s whiteboy soul voice. The heavy cello arrangement gives it a certain Beatle-esque element while the hooky chorus sticks like glue with drummer Wilson bashing out a muscular ending.

The record’s title ballad “Reclaim” has a similar feel with a bouncing keyboard riff, laidback acoustic guitar and a sentimental tale of raw love in the lyric, “I don’t have the tender heart to bring you back to the start.” The rock hits with “We’re On Fire” where the guitars plug in and the drummer wails. The melodies are tight and structured with a veracity of groove and rhythm as it screams toward the end. “Strange City” even picks up a bit of Led Zeppelin crashing acoustic moodiness with heavy electric guitar in a mash of sonic power. A nod toward psychedelic folk/space rock fills “The Waiting Hours” our personal favorite. Lush harmonies, biting lyrics and ripping solos put its influences somewhere between the late 60s and early ‘70s. Replacements fans will gravitate toward “Get Even”. It is melodic and charming with a cleaver use of horns to add an exotic texture. Though the disc is only six songs long, it gives a solid snapshot of the musicality of the group. Here’s hoping for more.

Website: The ColourSound

BIBLE OF THE DEVIL
For The love of Thugs and Fools
Cruz Del Sur Records

Our favorite bearded Chicago quartet return with their sixth long player. Just when you thought they couldn’t get more rockin’ they turn up the heat and deliver a scorcher. Best thing about BOTD is they write for an album format. The tracks have a cohesion about them that melt together like vinyl use to. It could be their pure love of ‘70s rock or their idol worship of all things Thin Lizzy but it works for them to a tea. The album’s title For the Love of Thugs and Fools captures the full scope of the nine-song collection with a fist-pumping heavy guitar marathon. The elegant “Sexual Overture” layers droning organ and electric picking into a somber Celtic fusion courtesy of guitarist Nathan Perry. Just when you’re settling in, the tidal wave that is “While You Were Away” barrels in with twin-guitars blaring and Mark Haffmann gravel-tinged vocals cutting a hole right through your soul. Whipping around for an uppercut to the jaw comes “Out for Blood” and the frantic footwork of drummer Greg Spalding. When Darren Amaya’s bludgeoning bass hits right in the face, the songs a complete knockout!

Living in the volatile urban Chicago, where encounters with crime, violence, and “street justice” are unavoidable gives the band plenty of subject matter to draw from. The riff-heavy “Raw & Order” and the duel-guitar harmonics of “Night Street” are skull crushing gangland warfare with ear-piercing solos and a guttural melody that only works when four guys lock horns and dance the devil’s boogie. A tribute to Ronnie James Dio comes alive with the plodding “Can’t Turn Off The Sun” - dark, brooding and basking in the glow of “Holy Diver”. “The Parcher” uses a similar chugging guitar adding an Iron Maiden sense of melody, a creepy storyline and is complete with atmospheric street sirens. Each of the BOTD albums has its own dedication to Lizzy and with this disc they’ve got two, “Anytime” and “Yer Boy”. Both kick in with twin-guitar leads, a drum blast, and a galloping bass Lynott would be proud of. Even the tough street lyrics of “Yer Boy” capture the attitude of the “Boy Are Back In Town”. Fading in from the past is the near classic “I Know What Is Right (In The Night)” with its massive riff ala Schenker-era UFO. Mid-way through is a reggae sax solo with a funk beat, completely unexpected and a perfect set up for the mind blowing guitar solo that follows.

Website: Bible of the Devil

JESS AND THE ANCIENT ONES
Jess And The Ancient Ones
As Is / Svart Records

Finnish doom metal, psych rock outfit Jess And The Ancient Ones are on the rise making occult music sexy again. Mixing the doom of Black Sabbath with some Iron Maiden riffing and topping it of with fuzzy pop has brought the underground group mainstream accolades. Formed in 2010 with lead guitarists Thomas Fiend and Thomas Corpse, rhythm guitarist Von Stroh (yes, that’s three guitar players), bassist Fast Jake, drummer Yussuf, keyboardist Abraham and female singer Jess they explore the dark magical realms beyond the mundane, creating a mystical and powerful atmosphere. Their inspiration hearkens back to the late sixties where bands like Coven, Black Widow and Jacula dabbled in the paranormal, astrology and alchemy. Yet, the septet gain their muscle from the rock and heavy metal of the 70’s and 80’s. In 2011 they released their debut single “13th Breath of the Zodiac” and a 7” split with Spain’s Deadmask to get the ball rolling. After months of anticipation they have finally released their first self-titled long player far exceeding expectations.

“Prayer for Death and Fire” kicks the whole thing off with a Steppenwolf-like riff followed by a hounds of hell rhythm section. Jess’s voice is melodic, intriguing and dangerous and, when mixed with a trio of guitars, is hypnotic, enchanting and mesmerizing. Comparisons to Jex Thoth, The Devils Blood and Blood Ceremony are going to be inevitable, however Jess has a more catchy seventies prog slant that borrows just enough from the lunatic guitar genius of Roky Erickson to make it palatable. The driving “Twilight Witchcraft’ and haunting “Ghost Riders” capitalize on the group’s stunning musicianship while the twelve-minute “Sulfur Giants” is the album’s groove-laden masterpiece. Broad use of piano and organ create an atmosphere where the guitar, bass and drum can find their musical landscape while giving Jess her vocal freedom. Single “13th Breath of the Zodiac” is a polished jewel with “The Devil (In G-Minor)” finding its charm in a piano-driven boogie with loads of swagger. The record ends with “Come Crimson Deat” another 12-minute opus that pulls from ELP, Deep Purple and King Crimson to create a lush cinematic work of genius.

Website: Jess And The Ancient Ones

ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL
Don't Hear It...Fear It!
Rise Above / Metal Blade Records

Metal Blade are picking up a ton of killer bands lately. Adding UK bruisers Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell to their list only increases their viability to move from an archaic 80’s thrash label to a more progressive modern warehouse. Boasting one of the more unusual names in current rock, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell harvest their proto metal roots from the fertile soil of obscure 70’s rock bands Captain Beyond, Dust, Budgie and Sir Lord Baltimore. The band’s debut album Don't Hear It...Fear It! might just as well have been released in 1971. It’s big beefy riffs, cosmic space passage and thunderous groove are all reminiscent of the time with only the stellar production setting it apart as a modern marvel. The disc follows their 7” single “Return to Zero” by over a year giving the band opportunity the work their chops into an all-out sonic frezzy of stoner groove and sludgy guitar feedback. Lead track “Mark of the Beast’ is six-minutes of bludgeoning space rock Fu Manchu style. The open-chord chugging over the augmented vocal is inspired MC5 brilliance and puts the record on track for eight more songs of classic ‘70s rock.

Splitting vocals between bassist Louis Wiggett and guitarist Johnny Gorilla keeps the record gruff with a rough-and-tumble edge. Brothers Bill (drums) and Jay Darlington (organ) have done their homework giving the record its ebb and flow while keeping songs like “Devil’s Island” and “The last Run” dirty, mean and nasty. Guitarist Gorilla is no slouch delivering one punishing riff after another including the backbone in the hair-raising “iDeath” and the wicked electric blues of “Red Admiral Black Sunrise”. Bass-driven standout is grinder “Scratchin’ and Sniffin” using a slow plow through old Sabbath territory before slicing through with a awe-inspiring solo over a Hammond backdrop - then to return to the signature bass lead. “Killer Kane” may have lifted it’s name from the New York Dolls bassist but is more inline with Kane’s obscure solo project (featuring Wasp’s Blackie Lawless) with its staccato riffing and ‘70s swagger. If that’s not enough, Groundhog’s legendary guitarist Tony S. McPhee adds massive street cred by lending a hand on slide guitar during album closer “Bean Stew”.

Website: Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS
Blood Lust
Rise Above / Metal Blade Records

Though Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats’ Blood Lust (2011) has been out for over a year in the UK, it’s only now coming to America – and about time too. The Cambridgeshire trio have a distinct resemblance to another UK export, Ten Benson, relying on muscle-bound guitars, surging rhythms and distorted vocals. However Uncle Acid has a taste for the more macabre, Hammer horror films, garage, punk and doom. Their first album Volume 1 appeared independently in 2010 but it’s the quirky Sabbath meets Alice Cooper meets Charlie Manson that puts Blood Lust on the map. Uncle Acid handles the vocals, guitar and organ, Kat plays bass, and Red bangs drums. The record is a powerful throwback to the glory days of sinister rock complete with earthy production, whiny falsetto vocals and wobbly, erratic occult references over a stormy dirge of Iommi riffs. “I’ll Cut You Down” is the engine behind this hellbound train with a clarion call and rattling rhythm that will wake the dead and invites an army of zombie go-go dancers to bang their brains out.

Other tracks are more subtle. The groovy “Death’s Door” is a slower, mossy affair that rides a seductive beat as the guitar snakes along with poisonous precision getting heavier and more lethal as the seven-minute epic plays out. “Cursed in the Trees” and “Withered Hand of Evil” are silver screen features that breathe mystic symbolism and eerie enchantment under the ghostly mist cast by the midnight fog. The organ gives each track its true essence of creepy as it swirls within an atmosphere of cultish demonism. The sultry groove of “Over & Over Again”, “13 Candles” and “Ritual Knife” keep the tribal beat addictive and entrancing while the guitar goes in for the kill. The toe-tapping continues with the hip shaking “I’m Here To Kill You” pulling just enough from mid-sixties garage pop to make it lustfully attractive. An untitled track at the record’s end eloquently builds from an acoustic strumming like Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” ending in a quite soliloquy.

Website : Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

WITCHCRAFT
Legend
Nuclear Blast

Returning after a five year hiatus Sweden’s Witchcraft deliver the stunning Legend to universal praise. After recording their third album The Alchemist in 2007, the band fractured sending it’s members in different directions. Singer Magnus Pelander cut a four song EP as part of his solo project while other members split to form Troubled Horse and Spiders. After hearing the demos to Legend Nuclear Blast immediately signed the band with only Pelander and bassist Ola Henriksson left from the old lineup. New comers included guitarists Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius with drummer Oscar Johansson. Together they have written and recorded the groups most cohesive and solid effort to date. The production of the album is the first striking element. Stepping away from their signature ‘70s muted back end with clean guitars, the five piece have moved to a thicker drum sound and heavier distortion. Granted the melodic nuances are still intact but the album is fuller with greater dynamic range and atmosphere.

Pelander’s vocals still shadow Ozzy but his phrasing and lyrical songcraft have matured. Adding two guitarists in Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius also changed the sound to a fuller more structure base where their fluid musical interplay drives and defines a fresh creative direction for the band. Their brash stoner rock attack is heard most distinctly as the record rumbles through the aptly tilted “Deconstruction” where the guitars set a new precedence. Lyrically Pelander is a new man commenting harshly on life and singing “I stand naked and abused.” Approaching metal “It’s Not Because of You” and “Ghost House” thunder closer to Spiritual Beggars, Abramis Brama and Sasquatch than Pentagram. Southern rock even creeps into the politically charged “An Alternative to Freedom” and the groove-centered “White Light Suicide.” The straight ahead heavy guitar riffing of “Dead End” and “Democracy” find Witchcraft well on their way to stadium stardom while songs like the gorgeously constructed “Dystopia” and rhythmic “Flag of Fate” have folks referencing Led Zeppelin.

Website: Witchcraft

BLUES PILLS
Bliss
Crusher Records

Sometime four songs are all you need  - to know a band’s greatness. Blues Pills were formed by drummer Cory Berry and bassist Zack Anderson, both ex-Radio Moscow luminaries. When the two joined Swedish singer Elin Larsson and French guitar player Dorian Sorriaux, the perfect combination of combustible electric blues and retro rock erupted from their stack of Marshals. Reminiscent of Inga Rumpf’s Frumpy or Atlantis and the Janis Joplin-led Big Brother & the Holding Company, the four piece not only emerge as an exciting new homage to classic rock but a burst of energy equal to or greater than their idols. Heavy, driving bass lines, colossal drums and scorching guitar solos make way for Larsson’s whiskey-soaked voice and emotional delivery. As a teaser, the band released the Bliss EP prior to their summer 2012 tour of Spain where fans lit up the Internet with ecstatic enthusiasm. The Hendrix-inspired “Bliss” is a blast of seventies riff rock - heavy, genuine and monstrous. The title track “Bliss” sung in Swedish is a nod to November, Abramis Brama and the obscure Fire with just enough catchy poppiness to propel the band into the mainstream…or a least above underground status.

Second track “Astralplane” is a slower paced scorcher where Larsson steps into the spotlight as an incredible singer with passion and vocal prowess. Raunchy, explosive and soulful, she can bring a man to his knees or raise the dead. With a force as powerful as Larsson it takes a larger-than-life guitarist to hold it all together and Sorriaux proves he’s up for the task. Part Paul Kossoff, Jimi Hendrix and Tony Iommi he is a wonder on six string, brooding, emotive and densely heavy. Third track “Devil Man” is a screeching masterpiece so raw, dark and sinister yet instantly catchy that the band might pull it off as a single. The gently constructed “Little Sun” finishes off the EP with beauty and rich texture that starts slow and bluesy then turns into a blistering hard rocker. From the group’s MySpace page you can track down “Black Smoke” a bonus MP3 worth hunting for. Along the lines of Graveyard is has a strong Swedish folk element that shifts quickly into overdrive and becomes a showpiece for the groups skilled musicianship. The sound is unpolished and rough, but not too muddy with enough tempo and textural variety to etch their names into your memory until their long player hits in 2013.

Website: Blues Pills

THE SWORD
Apocryphon
Razor & Tie Records

Austin-based The Sword release their fourth studio record Apocryphon fresh from Magpie Cage Studios (Baltimore) home to Clutch, Against Me! and Jawbox. Listeners will take note as the production is huge, much bigger than Warp Riders (2010) with greater care for detail and song structure. Swapping out drummers after their last tour, Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III is heard for the first time bashing it out in the chugging riff monster “The Veil of Isis” where the song centers around a bass kick and Kyle Shutt’s bludgeoning guitar. Recorded using only analog equipment gives the album a nice ‘70s vibe while still keeping it crisp and sonically broad. With 10 tracks total there’s not a single instrumental in the bunch, a first for the band. Yet, they still conjure up the spirits of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and even Lynyrd Skynyrd in the slamming “Cloak of Feathers”, the bass-driven “The Hidden Masters” and “Eyes of the Stormwitch”. The  lyrics take on a more “real life” content…at little more metaphysical than previous work while still keeping an expanded thought process.

Singer JD Cronise may still sound a bit like Ozzy but the band do expand past their Sabbath-like comparisons while bassist Bryan Richie keeps it fresh with his unique and sometimes bizarre synthesizers - like in the record’s title track “Apocryphon”. Where the synth is used it’s more for color and background texture than Jon Lord domination. “Dying Earth” uses keys as a mood enhancer and are all but pushed to the back when the onslaught of guitars charge in. Elsewhere the drums punch through the mix in “Arcane Montane” and “Seven Sisters” where the shear weight of the songs are carried through on the pounding backbeat. Personal favorite “Hawks & Serpents” is total riff rock in the best days of Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult and Montrose. The expanded disc comes with three old tracks (“Barael's Blade”, “The Chronomancer II: Nemesis” and “Ebethron) recorded live at Austin hot spot Stubb’s another (“Arrows In The Dark”) at Emo’s and a righteous version of ZZ Tops “Cheap Sunglasses”.

Website: The Sword

THE DATSUNS
Death Rattle Boogie
Hellsquad Records

New Zealand outfit The Datsuns finally got around to recording their fifth LP Death Rattle Boogie. An injection of full-throttle rock ‘n’ roll with a lethal dose of high-octane guitars, the four piece have rediscovered the ferocious energy made famous by their live shows. Nearly a year ago they released the single “Gods are Bored” a distorted ditty with an insanely catchy chorus proving the boys still had fire in the belly and plenty left to say. Death Rattle Boogie exudes confidence with a unique blend of garage and punk supercharged with riffs through the rafters. Distorted masterpiece “Gold Halo”, fuzzy “Helping Hands” and the sixties tribute “Colour of the Moon” each worship at the alter of open-chord fury with a dance beat irresistible to ignore. “Bullseye” gets in line as a howling fist-pumping anthem while the beat is slowed down a bit for the menacing dirge of “Axethrower” and the memorable lines, “Something’s creeping at your front door / but you don't understand it no more / puzzle pieces what a trip to understand this behemoth monolith.”

The go-go dance beat of “Skull Full of Bone” finds the group still enamored with garage rock complete with shaking tambourine and a sexy bass line. One of the highlights of the album is “Wander The Night”, a groove centered number from the darker side of jazzy blues, full of menace and stained with the souls of the brokenhearted while “Hole in Your Head” is a crisp punky tune left over from the days when the band toured with The Hellacopters. They’re also keenly aware of their own styling and how the pieces fit together by bringing in a White Stripes-ish “Brain Tonic” with gothic/post-punk shadows on “Death of Me”. Of the record’s 14 tracks “Fools Gold” gets the most repeat listens. A southern cooker complete with tasty slide guitar and a Cajon backbeat where the band do what they do best by mining the past for classic nuggets, twisting it around to fit The Datsun’s groove and blowing it out in spades. Worship the piano-charged “Goodbye Ghosts” then start over again. Here is an album that begs to be played loud and often.

Website: The Datsuns

SCORPION CHILD
Scorpion Child
Independent Release

They wear their hair long, don’t shave, roll their own cigarettes and walk around in deerskin jackets and bell-bottoms. Scorpion Child hearken back to early ‘70s psych-rock with a modern twist hailing Aphrodite’s Child, Sir Lord Baltimore and Bang! as influences. They consider themselves purists that pay homage to Britain’s Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy with a hint of Black Sabbath. The five-piece hail from Austin, Texas where they’ve spent the last six years perfecting both their songwriting and stage presence. Layering high-energy twin-guitars over a pounding rhythm section with a singer that’s a cross between Robert Plant and Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon has built the band a substantial fanbase and made them the darlings of SXSW. After song writing sessions in Nashville, the band spent 2011 recording their self-titled debut album with Grammy-nominated producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith (The Answer, Slayer, Meat Puppets). The result is a hybrid of eight, hook-filled mammoth classics that breathe new life into a stale hard rock market.

The band feature founding members and chief songwriters Aryn Schwartz (vocals) and Shaun Avants (bass) joined by new drummer Sean Ouvwier (a mix between John Bonham and Bill Ward). Joining on guitars are Austin legends Chris Coward (lead guitar) and Dave Fender (rhythm guitar, pedal steel) bringing a technically progressive, doom metal edge to the mix. Together they share a reverence for Muddy Waters in the electric blues of “Kings Highway”, Dio-era Rainbow in “Polygon of Eyes” and the pummeling drive of Deep Purple’s In Rock with “The Secret Spot”. Built for the big stage “Salvation Slave” hearkens back to when guitar rock ruled the airwaves and made going to a concert the ultimate main event. That surge of electricity carries over in to the hippie infused “Antioch”, a Yes-like folk number with hypnotic beat and subtle shades of light that build into a blinding guitar solo. A galloping pulse distinguishes “In The Arms of Ecstasy” as a celebration of groove while the slow building “Red Blood (The River Flows)” continues to attract comparisons to Led Zeppelin. The band join an elite few including The Sword, Graveyard and Radio Moscow that celebrate a warm Marshall and liquid feedback while still pushing boundaries.

Website: Scorpion Child

STONE MACHINE
American Honey
Grooveyard Records

Very little is known about this West Virginia outfit except for the fact that they play some pretty incredible blues-based hard rock. Joe Romagnola of Grooveyard Records first tipped us off to the band’s first studio effort, the self-titled Stone Machine a couple years ago. We were impressed with their “old school” soul-powered heavy rock riffage that fell right in line with Humble Pie, Free and the James Gang. Their sophomore disc American Honey follows suite with a striking 12 tracks that finds its home alongside the greats of ‘70s guitar-driven hard rock. Led by vocalist Jason Mays and guitarist Dirk Blevins with brothers Jamie (bass) and Jeremy Hall (drums) as the thunderous rhythm section they cook up a recipe that’s near perfect in tone, taste and chemistry. Right out of the chute comes the supercharged title track “American Honey” with a hook so memorable it captures the listener instantly. Belevin’s guitar struts with cock-sure attitude while Mays  wraps his soulful voice around the microphone with charisma and seduction - all the while the Hall boys are heating it up in the engine room.

Last time we heard something this good it was watching a young Black Crowes or the first Cry of Love tour. If you weren’t buckled in after the first song, this train will leave you in the dust. “Stone Cold” is mind-blowing – swagger in spades with a hypnotic drum beat that will get your whole body shaking. The slide blues of “Speed Demon”, the staccato riffing of “Long Road” and groovey “Corn Bread” are miraculous in that they conjure up the ghosts of Duane Allman, Robert Johnson and Havey “The Snake” Mandel all rolled into one. If it’s straight ahead rock, look no further than the smoking “Bad Lovin”, the rolling “Better Days” or the ZZ Top-inspired “Shake That Thang” fueled only by guitar and harmonica. Sex and swagger was always the root of the electric blues and when “Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen” or “Midnight Gypsy” light up the amp it’s bump and grind time. A wicked lick over a dangerous curve with the devil’s back beat and …Lord have mercy!” Toward the end of the disc the group ease up on the beautifully crafted “May You Run Forever” and the picking “Bye Baby Bye” that leads out into a scorching 12-bar romp.

Website: Stone Machine, Grooveyard Records