After my last encounter with laid back rockers Zodiac (http://www.avenoctum.com/2013/10/zodiac-a-hiding-place-napalm ) it’s probably a fair question as to why I’m here again. We’ll the answer is in the criticisms I made last time, about the too clinical/perfect approach and the lack of feeling when they were clearly a band that dripped musical virtuosity. In other words despite my lack of affection for that album I believed that there was a fine band fighting to get out an album to match.
Is Sonic Child that album?
‘Intro: Who I Am’ is a kind of worrying start initially, pretentious and portentous spoken word over a sub-Vangelis style travelogue, but it drifts gently and sweetly into a seventies or eighties film moment, the contemplative scene in the movie. A rather nice relaxing musical place, one which allows you to settle down before the nice and clear, but delicately fuzzed guitar runs of ‘Swinging On The Run’. This is Zodiac style personified; somewhere between JJ Cale and early Firebird, laid back but earthy blues rock with a voice like a less rough and accentless Chris Rea. But it’s the extended instrumental interlude that grasps the song by the scruff of its guitar neck. Now I am sure the band will say nothing has changed, but to my ears it has. Whereas before it all sounded perfect, here it sounds like someone playing with sensitive fingertips, eyes closed and being led by the music. It sounds rich, full of delicate little touches, vibrant and suffused with watercolour haze. I’m guessing the recording and production here, bringing out what was already there, showing cynical me that this is a song, not a lesson. Emotional, drifting, wonderful wonderful stuff. It’s not a fluke either; the title track up next gives me genuine goose-bumps. A gently bouncing ride, pitch prefect vocals with enough expression in them to move you and, once again that fingertip touch guitar sound that reminds you of Knopfler playing Clapton. Kinda makes me want to jump up and down shouting “See!? See? I was right! Musicianship and emotion!”
The more driving harder rock of ‘Holding On’ isn’t quite up to those moments, losing something in its urgency for me but certainly no stinker. ‘Sad Song’, is a semi acoustic one with a bit of slide that really showcases frontman Nick Van Delft’s rich, gravelly voice beautifully before we’re back to the bounce with ‘Out Of The City’ which adds a bit of piano boogie to the event before it warms up another bit of a breakout.
In case you haven’t twigged, this is a blues guitarist’s album, softer than our usual fare at Ave Noctum but a fine musical travelogue regardless. On the wonderfully titled ‘A Penny And A Dead Horse’ we even descend into the mud bed of the Mississippi Delta which has overtones of Jason & The Scorchers ‘Bad Night’, before a more rolling time takes over.
Not everything hits the mark with me, though. ‘Good Times’ isn’t going to win any lyric competitions, and musically is too weak funk for its greater part for me, tambourine shaking or not a real ‘skip button’ moment. ‘Rock Bottom Blues’ is basically a long guitar showcase that you hurry past the lyrics on, despite that warm voice but at least it is a good if very traditional one. ‘Just Music’ is OK, warm and gently rocking but maybe a little too filler. It’s a shame these three tracks come all together.
‘Not Fragile’ with its lazy but stone solid beat and the lovely ‘Shine’ (bleep aside) close things out nicely and really leave me with warm smile, a feeling that I have been floating in warm water, staring up at blue skies and at one with the world.
Those three tracks aside (and the album would be a satisfying length without them) this worked so much better for me. So much. Yeah, one for the blues rock fans, but that’s good. We all need to touch the roots from time to time. It’s just our music.