Blues Pills – Blues Pills Album Review by Dave Smiles
Have I just found a lost album from the Psychedelic Rock era of the 60s or have a group of young musicians successfully tapped into the essence of this music and created some of the most interesting tunes to have been recorded in the past decade?
Blues Pills are a multi-national four piece that began in California with half-brothers Cory Berry (drums) and Zack Anderson (bass). Upon meeting Elin Larsson from Sweden and discovering her exceptional vocals the group began writing songs. They were soon rounded out with Dorian Sorriaux, who is already an insanely good guitarist at the young age of eighteen. Their music is inspired by 60s and 70s bands such as The Doors, Free, Grand Funk Railway, early Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Cream.
There’s a list of adjectives that can be used to describe the music on this album - Unique, energetic, raw, intense, nostalgic, honest, atmospheric. Blues Pills have taken all that was great about the Woodstock generation and created something fresh within today’s music landscape. It makes me wonder why this style ever went out of fashion to begin with. Their music contains many of the practices long since lost from music. The steady pounding bass lines that easily lock in with the drums to create a driving rhythm section which serves as the building blocks for the free expression from the guitar and vocals. Best of all, all the separate instruments and vocals come together as a complete sounding band that just takes you to another world, or days of old.
Fronting the band with an honest and powerful soul filled voice is Elin Larsson. Her voice is like Janis Joplin or Aretha Franklin; At times a female Jim Morrison. In the world of Autotune, if you’re still interested in the real thing then this is a voice to check out.
There has been strong anticipation for this album after the highly-acclaimed four track EP Devil Man. The band also has a Live EP of four tracks of the WDR Rockpalast concert. Available on YouTube.
Black Smoke Live At WDR Rockpalast 2013
The album opens with the catchy riff and awesome guitar tone of High Class Woman, the lyrics are instantly memorable and by the end of its 4 and a half minutes I guarantee you’ll be hooked for the rest of the album. The follow up track Ain’t No Change takes the listener through elements of light and shade with the hypnotic melodic riffing and tradeoffs between guitar and bass, steady drums holding the songs together. The solos and riffs flow seamlessly into each other. For all the free form and loose feel the songs have, there is certainly a destination the band is taking us to. Larsson’s lyrics take us back to the days of telling stories and inspiring the listener to think.
Jupiter opens with a funky, wah drenched riff that is straight from the Hendrix play book. It would be interesting to be able to hear Dorian Sorriaux jam with Jimi Hendrix. Larsson’s lyrics continue to feel important and are passionately sung, demanding your attention. There’s an out of this world killer solo and band outro.
Larsson shows her sultry yet dominating and hypnotic singing during the blues intro to Black Smoke. She brings the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, to mind with the power to captivate the listener with observations of the human condition. The song soon kicks into hard rock that wouldn’t be out of place on the first Sabbath album before coming back to the blues. The seamless changes between sections are handled skillfully, drawing your attention and never letting go. The song also has a killer instrumental section and outro.
River is a haunting blues brought to life with the cosmic guitar slides. The band takes us with them on their journey into whatever the tides may bring. Following up with another blues track No Hope Left For Me allows Larrson to open her soul over the chords that are left to gently fade, until the song begins to gain momentum before calming again.
Devil Man brings an energetic opening with Larrson’s powerful vocals adding to the vibe. If you were going to play someone a song to show how strong her voice is then this would be it. There’s a nice break down section at the end. In contrast to this hard rocking song, the next track AstralPlane is peaceful and easy going. It takes the listener with them as the head away from the hard times. Eighteen year old Sorriaux fills his guitar playing with emotion and expression unheard of from a musicians twice his age.
Gypsy – Damn, this one has a Hendrix vibe straight from The First Rays of the New Rising Sun. Larsson genuinely sounds like she’s searching for herself and her place, much like the roaming musicians back in the 60s, before globalization brought the world together (as long as we’re all in our individual spaces) A track for all who feel they don’t belong in the generation they’ve been born. The closing number Little Sun leaves us thoughtful and fulfilled. This is what the softer side of Led Zeppelin would sound like if they were fronted by Janis Joplin.
High Class Woman Official video.
The most passionate genres of music have always been Rock ‘N’ Roll, Blues and Soul, with the history of these genres dating back countless generations. It’s the sound of the working class, the under-privileged, the survivors, the loners, the rebels, the romantics. Sadly, somewhere in the last decade or so music lost part of this edge. (Well, mainstream music at least.)
In a world dominated by technology where music is overly produced and vocals are manipulated by auto tune, it’s refreshing to hear musicians of such a young age wanting to bring back all that was important about music - The humanity, the heart, the passion, and the honestly that comes from a band being willing to bare their souls with the music they create. In short, this is the real thing.