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SAVOY BROWN Blues All Around

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Thursday, June 8, 2023 @ 8:04 AM


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SAVOY BROWN
Blues All Around

Quarto Valley Records




From their humble origins as one of the first pioneers of the British blues rock scene back in 1965, SAVOY BROWN have either created musical history or borne witness to such throughout their exemplary 57-year long career. And in spite of their various line-ups and their eventual relocation to Syracuse, New York, the consistent presence of founder, guitarist/singer/songwriter Kim Simmonds remained as the band's forefront spokesperson even as his hard-fought yet private battle with cancer following his diagnosis in September of 2021 had persisted - a battle which reached its end with the loss of the legendary musician on December 13th, just a week after turning 75. While recuperating from his initial cancer treatments, Simmonds had begun work on the new album that was to become the band's 31st and current studio album Blues All Around. It follows SAVOY BROWN's critically acclaimed 2022 album, Ain't Done Yet, and is lovingly dedicated to the band's families, friends and SAVOY BROWN fans everywhere.

"The new album continues the approach I've been taking with the band this past decade," said Kim Simmonds at the time of the sessions. "The big difference with the new album is the multi-layer approach I took to recording the guitar parts. It's all blues-based rock music. I try to find new and progressive ways to write and play the music I've loved since I was a teenager," he said. Blues All Around showcases Kim Simmonds' most-inspired guitar work and expressive vocals, since his illness during the recording sessions lead him to play a great deal more slide guitar than on previous albums. On the new record, Simmonds (guitar, harmonica, organ and vocals) was once again joined by his long-running bandmates Pat DeSalvo (bass) and Garnet Grimm (drums/percussion) and this was his secret on how Blues All Around marks a significant shift compared to past SAVOY BROWN albums:

"My tracks, guitar, vocal, etc., were laid down first. Pat and Garnet then added bass, drums and percussion and the whole process worked beautifully. They clinched the deal using my tracks as a guide. Brilliant work. They're heaven sent. The concept wasn't my brainchild. Studio owner and engineer Ron Keck suggested the approach to make things easier, due to my failing health and I'm forever grateful. John Shelmet was another angel in the preparation stages. He suggested I play slide guitar when the neuropathy affecting my fingers made single string playing difficult. Good idea!! My wife Debbie was a great help as well in the mixing stage. She added an extra set of ears and a source of helpful suggestions as we moved along ... often at lightning pace."

Hard to go wrong with an album that's a collaborative effort featuring input from all sides involved here - the band members, the recording/production crew and even from family and loved ones.

Opening with the brief 43-second intro "Falling Through", Simmonds' deep raspy voice and laid-back playing is unmistakeably recognizable. But it's the first full-length number "Black Heart" that has his true dark-sounding voice nailed down. He can sound like Johnny Cash during his most grittiest in one part of the verse and then easily merge into capturing Barry White's deep soulful voice in the next part all throughout a number whose subject is about an unfaithful partner attempting a stress test on their relationship. "Going Down South" also sings of deceit, but it's far from sounding like your average maudlinblues song thanks to Simmonds' flavorful slide guitar work and his quick one-liners such as "Goin' down south/Won't need that many clothes" sung with the aura of someone who's written off the bad relationship without giving it a second thought. Speaking of second thoughts, a moment of reflection on how underrated Simmonds' harmonica playing is throughout this album as it carries the flow of the music, particularly on "Gypsy Healer", "Texas Love" and the aforementioned "Going Down South". Likewise with the quick one-liners on the album, including "I ain't got no money/Here comes my landlord" on the straight-shootin' title track and the solid slide guitar work on numbers such as the slow groove number "Winning Hand". By the time "Can't Go Back To My Hometown" makes its appearance, Simmonds is channelling his inner Leonard Cohenat his most humblest, aware that his time is approaching yet still eager to make the most of that time. "I'm walkin' alone/But my heart ain't down" alone sums up his view of his mortality, but it's the closing number, the full-length version of "Falling Through The Cracks" which personifies Simmonds' final acceptance as he plucks his way solo through the 5-minute long number. "I'm feelin' good/Know where I stand/Take your love/Give it to your other man" is Simmonds' parting shot to those that have scorned him, the proverbial mic drop that emboldens the climax of the song and the album - and, ultimately, the nearly-60-year long career of one of blues rock's most overlooked yet enduring statesmen of the genre.

Blues All Around may signify life after the final chapter in SAVOY BROWN's history never really being the same without its founder, but it certainly represents how colorful of a legacy that Kim Simmonds has left the rock landscape for generations to come.

5.0 Out Of 5.0

https://savoybrown.com/
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