RAISED ON HEAVY RADIO Ronnie Romero (Frontiers) ****
The voice chosen by Ritchie Blackmore to replace Joe Lynn Turner and Ronnie James Dio has just released his 2nd covers album within the last year. Raised On Radio, from March of 2022, covered more AOR stuff like Freddie Mercury’s I Was Born to Love You. Raised On Heavy Radio will have more obvious appeal for Romero’s fans as he takes on tunes by Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Accept. As covers albums go, this is pretty righteous.
The kid has the quite the set of pipes, having sung with Rainbow and The Michael Schenker Group, making him particularly well suited for this material. Where the previous Radio covers album featured classics that meant something to Romero and showcased a different side of his influences, here he shows his love for metal in all its fist-pumping glory, for which he is more widely and rightly known. You gotta have vocal muscle to pull this stuff off, and he does.
Aside from Ronnie’s voice and a talented band behind him, what makes Heavy Radio work so well is the choice of material. When I say he covers Deep Purple it’s not Smoke On The Water- he sings The Battle Rages On. Accept? A killer version of Fast As A Shark that’s better than the original. Black Sabbath? The Shining, a version that nearly equals the Tony Martin- fronted original. So he’s not choosing the ‘hits’ from each artist, yet well enough known deep cuts that fans of those groups will appreciate, showing knowledge of their catalogs. Throughout his career Romero has become known for killer covers as a part of his shows, so this will keep his fans interested and engaged while he continues work on his first proper solo album.
Along with more mainstream acts already mentioned Romero also takes on stuff by Manowar, Masterplan and Yngwie Malmsteen, so in that respect it’s a pretty good balance of material. Raised On Radio was quite enjoyable; Raised On Heavy Radio really ups his game.
HOT TRACKS: Fast As A Shark (Accept), The Battle Rages On (Deep Purple), The Shining (Black Sabbath)
DOG BITES BACK Dyer Davis (Wild Roots Records) *****+
For low down steam driven blues, this is the album for you. Dyer Davis is a 23 year old guitar player from Florida, and Dog Bites Back is just the kind of thing a title like that suggests; a growling junkyard dog that doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and the songs are heartfelt. This is the most exciting thing I’ve heard since Cristone Kingfish Ingram’s debut.
As a kid Dyer’s father, also a musician, turned him on to 60’s and 70’s greats, with blues rockers making the most impact on the young lad, like the Jeff Beck records featuring Rod Stewart. What powers Dog Bites Back as much as his bareknuckle guitar playing is an incredibly soulful voice that recalls Burton Cummings in his prime. Of this album Victor Wainwright says that it “plants (him) firmly in a seat at the table amongst titans. He transcends the norm, while tipping his hat to the greats that came before.” It’s an apt description; Davis has great chops that express the history of the genre while managing to push ahead- it’s very exciting.
Dog Bites Back is nasty, dirty, lowdown blues with rock & roll oomph, thanks in part to great production by Stephen Dees and Billy Chapin. Some of my favorite rock & roll is blues-based, so it only follows that I would dig this rock based blues too. Dyer wrote or co-wrote 7 of these 13 tunes, kicking the door wide open with a searing cover of Jeff Beck & Rod Stewart’s Let Me Love You. Dyer Davis is much more than a one trick pony- listening to a smooth number like Lifting Up my Soul is ample proof of that. His trio including drummer David Weatherspoon and bassist Jacob Barone are here, along with several special guests including Victor Wainwright, producers Dees and Chapin, and Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch.
Lew Jetton, host of State Line Blues, gets it right when he says “In addition to being a great guitar player, (Dyer) is also a great singer and arranger. Think Stevie Ray Vaughan meets the Black Crowes.” Dog Bites Back has the ferocious energy of Zeppelin’s early stuff; this original and exciting blend of rock ‘n’ blues has the nuts to blow you away
HOT TRACKS: Train Wreck, Walk Away My Blues, Dog Bites Back
BACK ON EARTH Girish & The Chronicles (Frontiers) *****++
The latest from Girish & The Chronicles is punchy hard rock that kicks ass and takes names. Back On Earth is also a re-recording of their first album from 2014. It was a quandary; how do I rate something like this? I had not heard the original; and this particular disc flat-out rocks and offers no apologies, so I approached it like a brand new album- it’s fuckin’ GREAT.
When asked why they re-recorded their debut instead of re-mastering and re-releasing it, front man/ rhythm guitarist Girish Pradhan said “We wanted the whole thing to have a fresh start. Although we wanted to keep most of the vocal takes, we have been introducing a lot of musical changes to these songs in live performances. So we thought why not do the same in the new recordings?” Girish adds “the whole thing sounds quite different from the 2014 version, but all in all it stays true to the spirit of the songs- it is closer to the vision we had back in the day.”
Originally from Sikkim but now based in Bangalore/ Bengaluru in India, GATC is noted for hard, vicious riffs, great solos and a thundering rhythm section as well as Girish’s shockingly powerful vocals. They’ve performed at many European rock festivals and are one of the most exciting hard rock acts I’ve heard in the last decade. I liked their last album Hail To The Heroes so much it made my Best Of 2022 list, and I hit I Tunes right away to grab Rock The Highway. Being ‘a hard rock band from India’ might sound like a gimmick, but it’s not. These guys mean serious business- you can hear and feel that in every note they sing and play.
From Girish’s soaring vocals to the guitar work of Suraz Sun and the mighty rhythm section of Yogesh Pradhan (bass, keys) and Nagen Nags (drums) Back On Earth is a stunning piece of work, produced for maximum impact- not unlike Judas Priest’s legendary British Steel record. Girlish & The Chronicles may not be on every hard rock fan’s lips but by God they SHOULD be. This is magnificent.
HOT TRACKS: Ride To Hell, Born With A Big Attitude, Smile Little Child
Capricorn Eddie 9V (Ruf) ****+
Soulful, slow burning southern blues ‘n’ funk… that’s Capricorn. So named after the legendary Macon, GA studio where these 11 tracks were laid down- as were seminal works by Otis Redding and The Allman Brothers Band- this disc is seductive magic with grit and honey.
Eddie left school at the age of 15 to play his fingers bloody through the south, inspired by the artists that had created unforgettable music at Capricorn. A couple of albums followed before finally, in 2021, the then 26 year old guitarist entered this hallowed ground to forge his own imprint. He brought 11 of the best roots musicians with him to realize his dream in making Capricorn, his third album. “There was overwhelming excitement at being in such a legendary studio” Eddie says, “but we hugged and got right to work. Everyone was joyous, loving and flat-out playing their asses off.”
Capricorn has an old school feel and sound, not unlike an old Al Green record, definitely more soul than blues. Rather than shoot for pristine sonic perfection, Eddie 9V took the warts-and-all approach in laying down the new record. “In a world where everyone’s trying to sound the best, I’m just trying to sound like me” he says. “I always want the listener to feel like they’re in the room with us. So I’d leave it in if a drum pedal squeaked or someone laughed during a take. It’s our way of putting a stamp on the song.” You can feel the groove, as if you were right there in the studio with them too, and these tracks have a knack for just carrying you away. It fits in quite nicely with the legendary records that have come out of this facility.
With Capricorn you don’t get that shiny chrome feel of so many of today’s records, there’s an organic earthiness and charm that will have you flipping it over to see what year it was recorded. 9 of the 11 tracks are Eddie 9V originals, with covers of Bout To Make Me Leave and Bob Dylan’s Down Along The Cove included too. It doesn’t get much cooler than this.
HOT TRACKS: Yella Alligator, It’s Going Down, Mary Don’t You Weep