Review by Rick Ossian
Though they have released a slew of EP’s and some considerable live work, this is Blues Pills’ second LP. Their first (2014) was a stonker, a real jam, but only indicated to me there was more goodness to come. Lady in Gold finds this mesmerizing quartet finding their own footing and really coming into their own. They sound like they are seasoned veterans of their own scene.
Blues Pills call Planet Earth their hometown, and call Sweden Home base. They are Elin Larsson on vocals, Dorian Sorriaux on guitar, Zack Anderson on bass and Andre Kvarnstrom on drums. There are also some seriously heavy keys at work here, but they are credited to nobody…perhaps they are done with guitar FX pedals. There are plenty of feedback and wah washes, speaking of FX. There is also some really nice slide guitar work going on!
First up is the title track, and it is a good one. The piano and the vocals take care of the introductory salutations, which quickly give was to the other instruments kicking in their fair share. This is a BIG bluesy stomper, heavy on the keys as mentioned above. There is also some psychedelic guitar at about a minute in. Even the lyrics are psych: “She’s the lady dressed in gold/ She’s young she’s old/She’s the keeper of the soul”. Another psych lead guitar solo (2:15) brings things quickly to a close, and the ending is much like the beginning, with a cool vocal/piano double whammy.
Little Boy Preacher graces us with its presence next, and is another rocking blues with psych and soul thrown in for good measure. Some heavy bass contributes to the heavy blues, and the spaces of silence or almost silence become important to the dynamics of the instrumental sound and the messianic storyline.
Burned Out starts out with violins, keys and bass. Heavy keys, most likely an electric piano and an organ, grace this number. It features our old favorite rhythm, like horses galloping off in a heated contest! This is a heavy rocking blues with a beauty of a slide guitar bit at 3:25. Very nice.
I Felt a Change is a vocal and keyboard number, mainly a torch ballad of sorts. There is also a droning of sorts going on in the background, mainly for the purpose of, apparently, atmospherics. “I carry you still” is the overriding lyrical refrain. DO NOT listen to this if you are in a serious depression, it is NOT pretty. Unless, of course, you like a droning torch ballad that never really breaks out of its cage…
Gone So Long is another Bluesy stomper, with very good use of Elin‘s vocals, as we will hear throughout. This is sort of a dirge, if yo will, and is recipient of a very emotional, passionate delivery. At three minutes in there is a beautiful slide guitar bit, and some BIG wailing blues vocals from Ms. Elin. It does end on a hopeful note: “See what tomorrow will bring”.
Bad Talkers has kind of a weirdo psych intro, and harkens back to the 60’s and 70’s bluesy/psych heroes of the band. Elin‘s voice is again, clearly the driving force behind the tune. This is another very cool Blues Rock stomp. At about two minutes in things get a bit confusing, as drums phase into a slight instrumental breakdown, followed by handclaps and vocals. A hell of a lot to pack into three minutes, but somehow it still works.
You Gotta Try is a very deep Blues with keyboards and guitars not too fair from the front. There are some serious vocals in here, Elin can go from a whisper to a blues shout on the turn of a dime, and often does. At 2:15 there is a slight building to the drums, and the tune takes off again. At three minutes in we get a lead guitar solo and a wicked jam all around. The vocals and the keys play heavy parts throughout. A good, steady beat and heavy rolling drums compliment this tune as well.
Won’t Go Back charges headlong into a psych/feedback/wah intro, shortly followed by a charging urgency with a good temp and a nice funky backbeat. Elin’s vocals allow the rest of the guys to fall in place. There are excellent dynamics and timing involved here. A friend of mine refers to this as ‘good writing’. Indeed it is. I suspect I hear a bit of clavinet in the background, à la George Duke (Zappa/Mothers/Billy Cobham). The tune closes with a psych/wah slide bit at 2:45, then a heavy jam at the very end.
Rejection features a bass intro, and very good use of the vocal power of Ms. Elin again. Heavy keys augment the background of this blues number. There are some nice drum dynamics going on again, and the psych/wah lead guitar bit at 2:25 is a definite ‘wow’ moment. Brief, but very good. This is a BIG, tight, compact tune. Its amazing what they can pack into a few minutes. Big drums and keys at the closing.
The final number of the day is a doozie titled Elements and Things. At just shy of five minutes, it is the single longest tune on this recording. If I have any complaints, that would be the only one – not enough time spent on jamming. You know what they say, radio format kind of loves that 3 – 4 minute song. Much longer and you risk lack of airplay, or some such nonsense. For our purposes longer tracks would do quite nicely, thank you very much! An instrumental intro is followed quickly by big vocals, keys and bass. There is a sense of a galloping rhythm again, and more wah/feedback drenching (2:15), giving way to a lead guitar solo at 2:30. The vocals come barrelling back in at 3:30, and before we know it this whole entire beautiful bluesy mess is over. Too bad, so sad, can’t wait for the next one!