Album cover for Darkwood by The Blue Lena

I was struggling to write anything about this CD until I thought of a food analogy – if anything The Blue Lena are like a well thumbed sandwich, although perhaps more Pret than an A$£a cheese and second hand onion. Finer foods are of course available elsewhere but sometimes a well structured sandwich is all you need to hit the spot. I imagine that if I was in a bar in, say Rochester in upstate New York and The Blue Lena hit the stage then I’d likely be punching the air along with the other frat boys and toasting them with a Bud light. At closing time I’d be playing their CD whilst driving down the interstate in a state of bliss with the top down whilst some chick unleashed her inner Grace Kelly and the wind made a mess of what’s left of my hair. The car ideally would be a Bentley, similar to the one owned by Keith Richards and which he named in honour of Lena Horne and where The Blue Lena take their name.

Ok, down to business: The Blue Lena are a powerful seven piece band and going by their list of former employers have paid what I believe are called ‘dues’ ending up here playing tasteful, solidly crafted ‘rock’ music. The press release suggests we reimagine Free as a southern rock band with Fleetwood Mac providing harmonies then we’ll be close to what The Blue Lena sound like. Possibly. Certainly some of these song titles have a ring of familiarity to them and there are echoes of other songs scattered hither and yon (Thin Lizzy and Tom Petty spring to mind) but that’s ok, it’s subtle. Opener and first single The Last Chance Saloon sets the template. Generally the feel is upbeat and optimistic; the closer What Do You Want is a plea for happiness and peace in your/my world and has encore written all over it whilst penultimate song Sometimes is what I guess passes as a power ballad, it’s not hard to think of mobile phones being held aloft in a knowing way as singer Peter Yeomans (a fine pair of pipes) reminds us that youth is ‘wasted on the young’. It starts brightly with an acoustic guitar but it’s not long before the rest of the gang join in and it’s business as usual. The rhythm section does exactly what is written on the tin whilst former Tattooed Love Boy Nick Singleton does his thing on the lead guitar (maybe change the tone occasionally, bit like driving everywhere in fourth gear).

The accompanying photo suggests old heads on early middle aged shoulders which fits with the old school, crowd pleasing rock & roll, preferring to tread carefully and presumably stick to what it knows, which I guess is what separates those that get to sit at the top table and those who reside below the salt, so to speak. In the case of The Blue Lena somewhere south of the Mason Dixon line which is where the hint of Southern US bar band soul seeps into the soup. Despite (or because of) lyrics that linger around the unadventurous end of the spectrum the songs generally boast fairly beefy chorus’, Sanctify’s in particular turned into a welcome ear worm, and it’s good to hear a band where several members can chip in with backing vocals, adding another texture to what is already a multi layered and filing musical stew (the usual suspects plus a keyboardist bringing his inner ‘mad professor’ to the table). I enjoyed Darkwood, enough to buy it, not sure but it’s a grower, so perhaps not quite the sharpest sandwich in the tool box, however if they’re coming to a town near you get thee down the front and set the controls in your ass to ‘wiggle’. Darkwood is released on November 18th at all quality purveyors of aural delectation…

By: Paul Johnson

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