Anyone who has been foolish enough to waste their precious time reading my ramblings over the last couple of years will know I’ve been a fan of Blues Pills from the get go, first catching them way down the bill before Scorpion Child and headliners Orchid in a comedy club in Camden, and right now I have pinned to a board here at home tickets for their forthcoming headline show in Glasgow with Kadavar in support. With stunning live performances, Blues Pills have built up a huge anticipation for this, their second full length studio release, ‘Lady in Gold’, so do they deliver?
The title track and lead release ‘Lady in Gold’ starts the album, and all the elements that have made the band such a draw are present in spades: Elin Larsson’s glorious vocals soar out of the speakers, channelling the spirit of such revered predecessors as Janis Joplin, a performer she is regularly compared to in hushed tones; Dorian Sorriaux displays guitar chops far beyond his years; and the rhythm section of Zack Anderson and André Kvarnström drive the whole track forward like a reborn Hendrix Experience. What is new to the Blues Pills sound is the extra layering of keyboards and backing vocals that give a nuanced soulful sound that is far more sophisticated than the sheer blast of their live shows as a four piece. This new, yet equally retro sound is developed even further in follow up ‘Little Boy Preacher’, a song with a direct lineage from Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son of a Preacher Man’, but with Larsson now railing against this unnamed liar of god with a biting venom.
‘Burned Out’ ups the blues factor, with the theme of a woman demanding release from a man who done her wrong, the impassioned pleas bringing to mind the heyday of such R’n’B divas as Aretha Franklin; oh, and for your information, anyone who thinks the auto-tuned and overproduced likes of Beyonce are R’n’B, either educate yourself with some classic Motown, or kindly fuck off! ‘I Felt A Change’ highlights just how fantastic a singer Blues Pills have in Elin Larsson, her voice being joined by just a simple electric piano line and some simple keys, the stripped back sound leaving no distraction from just how great a performer she is. To be honest, this is a track that could have been delivered with no accompaniment at all and had every bit as much melancholy power.
The rest of the band join back in with ‘Gone So Long’, harking back to the initial stripped back sound of Blues Pills, before the extra layers are added back in on ‘Bad Talkers’ and ‘You Gotta Try’; to recreate the sound of this album live the band really will have to tour with a keyboard player and some backing vocalists, a set up that won’t fit into the battered splitter van I first saw them spill out of a few years ago. This track, like most others on the album, moves away from the initial hard rock blues of the band, although that still comes to the fore in ‘Won’t Go Back’, a number that would need the most minor of rearrangements to be played live as a four piece, and I look forward to seeing the three instrumentalists blast through the track live as Erin says goodbye to this same man who seems to have inspired so much vitriol.
‘Lady in Gold’ is an album that heartily pays homage to the influences of the sixties and seventies artists that so clearly inspire Blues Pills, whilst embracing a wider range of elements than the simple drum, bass, guitar and vocals of their earlier releases, Soul and R’n’B being mixed seamlessly with their skilful hard rock blues. With such a massive and infectious sound it cannot be long before the mainstream learns of the band and they are main-staging bigger and bigger festivals, moving forever out of the sweat pit clubs I first saw them play in. Yes, I’ll miss the intimacy of seeing such an incredible band in those surrounds, but Blues Pills is surely a band that must be destined for greater things.