Old school friends and long-serving professional musicians, The Black and Blues Band trace their roots back to the school yard. Frontman Roger Keenan delivers vocals alongside Jon Williams’ guitar, Alan Vincent on bass, and Gary Santry clattering drumsticks, beating skins to black ‘n’ blue. Their latest release, A Lonely Road, delivers ten singles nailed down firmly in the blues camp – very fortunate, given their moniker!
The ‘Band open with a rocking, foot-tapping “Queen of Hearts”, which is sure to grab your attention from the off. Jon’s guitar makes its mark, while Roger’s smokey, laconic vocal fits the bill nicely. Rich, honeyed guitar pulls us into the slower blues groove of “When The Blues Got A Hold On You”, while Alan’s bass digs down, deep underground.
The eponymous “Black And Blue Loving You”, their signature track, has a creeping, slow rhythm that’ll worm its way into your head – and stay there! Gorgeous bass, bright flashes of guitar and bloody good lyrics, what more could you want in a blues dirge? An absolute cracker. Black, blue and bruised, we step over to “The Wrong Side Of The Tracks”, for The ‘Band to “Cut And Run”, a lovely blues groove with good lyrics and nice guitar riffs supported by a solid rhythm.
Next up are the heady funk vibes of “You’re Looking For Love”, a real slow-burner that Roger’s vocals are made to measure for; another excellent standout for this release, worthy of finding that repeat button! “Climb Into The Bottle” seems a perfect fit for our current crisis – and I’m sure we’ve all had a few more empty bottles in the recycling lately! This Lonely Road closes with the rock edged “I Can’t Let Go”, fuelled by Jon’s powerful guitar lead and the rhythm boys giving some real stick, while Roger drives the lyrics through to the very last note.
I did see this band live (those were the days!) at The Prince of Wales in Ledbury, back in early December. It didn’t make SLAP, of course, as the mag has its January holiday. I’ll be honest, the band hadn’t won me over that day (could’ve been my mood!), but this album has swung my opinion completely. A Lonely Road unfurls, revealing hidden gems and treasures – “Black And Blue Loving You” and “You’re Looking For Love” really stick with me. Initially I craved a little more gravitas to Roger’s vocal, although, on reflection the timbre seems a perfect fit for the songs, and yes, you can wallow in the breakout riffs from Jon, but Alan’s bass comes through across the whole piece; it’s a well-balanced album. Next time I see them I’ll have to pick up a hard copy!
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By: Graham Munn