Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rival Sons' Great Western Valkyrie

Rival Sons
There is one thing to say about the latest bleating blues rocker put out by Rival Sons. The 70s-style rock infusion, psychedelic drifts, and heavily-clad guitars combine to create their biggest and baddest studio effort.

Joining Jay Buchanan (vocals), Scott Holiday (guitar), and Michael Miley (drums) is newcomer bassist Dave Beste and, in the studio, Ikey Owens on keys. The result is something that sounds more personal, as if the band collectively decided to roll up their sleeves and be themselves for a change.

One might even say their band of blues rock benefitted from the fresh bass, encouraging Holiday to expand his approach on guitar, Miley to lend creativity to his drum work, and Buchanan to bring more moodiness in on the pieces where it mattered most. Think of it like Rival Sons evolved.

Great Western Valkyrie wails and howls over psychedelic blues. 

Electric Man might have been circulating for months now, but the opening track is still a testament to everything the band was trying to accomplish on the album. It's a fuzzed-out bluesy rocker that brims over with simplicity and self-confidence with only a few subtle and free-spirited arrangements.

Open My Eyes matches the stylings but not the simplicity. Lyrically and musically, the track adds even more muscle and intricacy. The track itself is about being your own person, regardless of the consequence or circumstance — even if that is only part of the story.

Although the verse makes note of a few envious onlookers, the chorus calls for something different. As Buchanan wails for "somebody to open my eyes," it becomes clear that one man's talent is another man's curse. After years of hardship, a rest from whatever tempest would more than welcome.

If there is any theme to the 10-track album, it's likely found in the balance of those two blues rockers. Most of the tracks find their reverence in being strong, self-aware, and willing to accept whatever hardships come knocking at the door. Good Luck, for example, is a breakup with a shrug track that underscores the take-it-as-it-comes attitude.

Things take off with the third track, Secret. Anyone who appreciates old-school, groove-driven, bass-heavy rockers that are underpinned by soaring vocals and organ will be smitten by it. In contrast, the slowed down and solemn Good Things balances the blues funk vocals and scorching guitar accompaniment that answers Buchanan more than it supports him.

Rich And The Poor follows suit with a slower pace, but the entire track is considerably more smoky and surreal. The track is an interesting departure from the rest of the album, giving the the entire LP a lift with an unexpected Spanish-Western informed folk tale. Belle Starr follows, even if it feels forgettable with Rich And The Poor and Where I've Been as bookends.

Where I've Been is an especially poignant moment for the band. The track adds a splash of country to make a convincing elixir. At six minutes, only the closer Destination On Course aims for something epic. Picking between the two, Where I've Been is the stronger of the slow burns.

Great Western Valkyrie By Rival Sons Screams 8.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

All in all, Great Western Valkyrie is an inspiring odyssey of muscular rock and roll and blues-weathered ballads. The best tracks teeter between bash-and-crash rockers like Electric Man, Secret, and Open My Eyes and heartfelt smoldering tracks like Rich And The Poor and Where I've Been. After those tracks, look for Play The Fool, Good Things, Good Luck to shake it up.

Great Western Valkyrie by Rival Sons can be found on Amazon. You can also download the album in entirety on iTunes. For the CD or vinyl release of Great Western Valkyrie by Rival Sons, visit Barnes & Noble. For touring updates, visit the band on Facebook.
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