VERSION OF YOU
The Blow Out
The album’s opener, That Ain’t Lovin’ Me, is a fair representation of where The Blow Out’s Rock N Roll heart lies. Front man and harpist, Dennis “Salty” Trevarthen, lets his gruff unvarnished vocal ride over the top of the adaptable rhythm section of Pete Beulke and Pete Hodges that allows enough space for the raw energy of Morgan Klose’s guitar and Daryl Roberts’ loamy organ. The toughness continues in the narrative driven “Road Song”, a smouldering slab of craggy Country Rock channeled through Mick Taylor era Rolling Stones. Lyrically “Road Song” rises above and beyond the banal with its images of cane fields, humidity and shattered dreams. Here, The Blow Out cook up a sonic landscape that conjures up early morning hangovers, overheated engines and steam rising from the bitumen. Atmosphere and attitude to spare.
Primarily, it’s the outside material that exposes The Blow Out’s collective understanding of Blues idioms. Paul Butterfield’s Lovin’ Cup and Charlie Musselwhite’s Blues Why You Worry Me display The Blow Out’s ability to dig deep into American Blues without sounding like they’re choking on history. The Butterfield homage, Lovin’ Cup, eases out of a mid-60s Rock shuffle into a sensuous Latin groove whereas Trevarthen and band blow up on storm on Blues Why You Worry Me. The Junior Wells cover, Snatch It Back And Hold It, is all corrosive harmonica and intense blues-wailing surrounded by The Blow Out’s engaging looseness. Allen Toussaint’s ultra-funky Get Out Of My Life Woman is faithful to the Lee Dorsey original but avoids the trap of falling into an overly reverential museum piece.
Trevarthen’s own Blues informed originals crackle with a similar authenticity. Turn On You, coloured nicely by Daryl Roberts’ Jimmy Smith inspired organ, heads for the back alley and bypasses all the clichés that so often cripple contemporary Blues. The seven minute slow Blues of Busy Signal is where The Blow Out can stretch out into some Jazzy R&B feels and not wear out their welcome. Gritty but tasteful, Sweet Apple Blues settles into an uncluttered West Coast shuffle that captures all the spontaneity of the band’s live sets.
Blues might be somewhat omnipresent throughout A Version Of You but it refuses to define the album. Proud of their eclecticism, The Blow Out throw three radically different curveballs into the mix that elevate them way above standard pub Blues fare. The title track, a manic Dylanseque rant full of hidden meanings and cryptic kiss-offs, is framed in a garage punk soundscape that’s both, unpredictably, chaotic and cohesive. The Blow Out detour hard into New Orleans for the giddily infectious Smokin’ Alone – a cool concoction of rhumba –rocking piano flourishes, scattergun lyrics and street corner vocals held together with the required second line rhythm. Aural proof of a band that takes its craft seriously but not always themselves.
A Version Of You closes out with the one take ten minute instrumental Bauhaus, a place where impulse overrides technique. Swaying between noise rock and acid Jazz, Bauhaus is all abstract expressionism. The twin guitars of Morgan Klose and Dennis Trevarthen move in different directions but somehow reach the same destination while the Pete Beulke-Pete Hodges rhythm section, that isn’t afraid of freeform, keeps everything nicely anchored. A fine conclusion to a versatile album from a seasoned unit that can venture into various genres without belonging to any of them. The Blow Out make their stand and are definitely here to stay.