29 May 2016

The Husky Tones: Time For A Change

It took a few plays for The Hat to get a handle on this debut album from Bristol-based Husky Tones.
In their pre-publicity, the band cite all the usual famous blues influences that have affected their work and motivation and yet essentially this is a very modern blues album, nods to the familiar names being mostly under the surface of this original work.

Unusually, the singer is also the drummer (there are some pretty spectacular precedents for this, of course) and as a result most tracks swing hard with Victoria Bourne's sassy voice and drumming up front and centre. This is some voice, a real commanding band leader's voice, I was reminded of the legendary Ottilie Patterson who sang with Chris Barber for many years....giving everyone 'a hot time in the old town tonight'. Nobody is going to argue about who is in charge.

And there lies the key to this album. It cries out for a live version. The tracks are longish - there are only two at under four and a half minutes - and you can see exactly how they would storm a live audience, especially with accomplished guitarist Chris Harper and harp man Liam Ward stepping forward and giving tremendous input on most of the numbers. The album is full of busy-busy full-on band tracks, harp and guitar working in fine unison as on the punchy and curiously three-part 'I Dare You'. However, one slow number in particular, the excellent 'It's a Bitter Love with You Every Time' harks back to more traditional blues sentiment, giving both Victoria's voice and Liam's splendid wistful harp a lot of room to open up and develop. All the lyrics and arrangements on here are original and were written by Victoria Bourne and Chris Harper, with one instrumental track 'Daybreak' allowing guitarist Harper to superbly flash his Peter Green influences with a fine slow and moody solo piece.

Although the biogs of the members of this band show that they have put in a lot of musical miles before this, doing their time and learning their chops the hard way, this is a debut album that has been self-penned, self-financed and recorded studio-live. It's fresh, vibrant and full of attack. To capture the energy of a live performance in a studio is always a tough call and they should be pretty pleased with the outcome of their hard work. You should be sure to check them out live as they go on the road after the album launch this month.