Our mate Steve Jones said nice things about us.
The number one album on the Australian Roots and Blues Charts for September and October 2017 was none other than our friends from Down Under’s great new CD Defiance! Recorded here in the US in Indianapolis in 2016 during their tour, the album has topped the charts because it’s a great blues album!
The sextet of Michael Rosenthal and Paul Read of guitar, Bill Williams on bass, Jo Fitzgerald on vocals, Theo Wanders on drums and percussion and Michael Barry on harp and lead vocals are a high energy and talented group of musicians who take the blues to new places. Produced by Mssr. Barry, this is by far their best effort yet, and they have had some damn fine albums that they have released over the years. Here we have new songs displaying a real maturation in their music. Well-crafted cuts, superb production, creative lyrics and some damn-fine singing and playing add up for a top notch effort that earned them top honors on the Australian Blues and Roots Charts!
The album opens to a driving blues rocker with a little bit of a rootsy/country flair entitled “Hard Rock.” Superb guitar licks, hard driving vocals and a driving beat make this a great hook. Next up is “Julie” which blends rockabilly and their eclectic sound into a whirlwind of a love song. The band changes things up and goes acoustic on a pretty ballad “Chase the Dragon.” Mixing acoustic and electric guitar, ethereal vocals by Barry and great backup by Fitzgerald, the song is a lilting and ethereal ride with a little slide thrown in to give the listener something tasty to savor. “Stopping By” follows, again mixing the acoustic and electric guitar in a romping and rocking style. Barry’s harp makes it’s first big appearance as Theo and Bill bang out a steady, upbeat tempo while Rosie and Mr. Wizard show us their chops on guitar. Things take a turn towards jazz and funkiness with “Heavy Weather.” Rob Dixon’s horn gives the band some fine support in this cool cut.
“Feels to Win” gives us some psychedelic guitar twists and a forthright vocal by Barry that exudes confidence as they tells us what it feels like to win. Jo gets her turn fronting the band in the thoughtful and beautiful “Like a Stone.” In addition to Fitzgerald on vocals we have some tasteful flugelhorn by PJ Winger and Theo on the bongos. A minimalistic approach which results in a winning approach and a great cut. “Colour My World” is not Chicago’s song, it’s a huge, driving rockabilly tune. It’s a big and bouncing song that the boys and Jo do a fantastic job with. “Go Down Easy” turns the tempo down with some thoughtful vocals by Michael and Jo and a melodic sound by the guitars and backline.
“Better Off Without You” is sort of a country blues about a breakup. The tone is one of resolve and not despair– the songs tells us life is better being broken up. “Isn’t How I Wanted It” is next up. Angst mixed with slide guitar, we have a song that compliments the displeasure that is in the lyrics. Slick, straight up Chicago styled blues is next in “Momma Don’t Mind.” Barry breaks out the harp and the guitars lay down some big licks in this driving blues. Things conclude with “Like Stone,” the ballad resuming but this time with Barry in front. Hints of reggae make this an interesting conclusion to a fine album.
The CD was produced in limited quantities and may be hard to find, but the album can be downloaded on CD Baby for $9.99 US. It is well worth the download to hear this fine album. We missed the band as their 2017 US tour was cancelled, but we can savor this CD as a small token in exchange for the cancelled tour. This band has been a favorite of ours and they demonstrate why in this great new release. Go out and get it now!
Reviewed by Steve Jones