TROUBLE IN PARADISE Big Red Fire Truck (bandcamp) ****+

A brand-new EP from these Australian hard rockers that is just what the doctor ordered. Trouble In Paradise is a half dozen tracks of high-octane riff powered rock & roll.  It won’t solve world hunger or cure fatal diseases, but this baby will sure as hell put a bounce in your step.

BRFT has the right attitude and are following what I think will be a path to major success.  According to guitarist/ lead singer Digby, “We’re making this music because there’s not enough of this style in the mainstream and I miss bands like Van Halen, Bon Jovi & Aerosmith releasing new music.  I miss having fun heavy rock music to listen to. We want to keep that alive while ripping off your car speakers.”  That’s the ethos of a band I can get behind, and listening to these songs has been a real kick in the pants after a grueling day on the rat race.  The songs are energetic and well-played, layered guitars and catchy riffs a-plenty with a driving and insistent bottom end that practically demands you get up and move.

Big Red Fire Truck, aside from Digby, is Ben Frank on guitar, Pete Grant on drums and vocals plus Nick Frazier on bass.  The press info says they take inspiration from bands like those already mentioned along with Reckless Love, The Darkness, Sum 41 and Crazy Lixx, a list to which I would add Poison and even Boston, particularly when it comes to those harmonized lead lines.  Is Trouble In Paradise the kind of stuff we’ve never heard before? Well no it feels familiar but that’s kind of the point here as they pay homage to previous generations of hard rock while carving out their own identity at the same time.

I don’t know what kids do for fun nowadays, but Trouble In Paradise is the kind of stuff I can imagine hearing at a bush party. Driving, energetic, full of life- I’ll take more of this please!


HOT TRACKS:  Trouble In Paradise, Psychotropic Thunder

THE RIGHT MAN D. K. Harrell (Little Village) *****

This is the debut album for a 25-year-old Louisiana bluesman, but boy does he sound like he’s got some serious mileage on him.  The Right Man has swagger and groove, an uptown combination of BB King and Robert Cray that has to be heard and felt to be believed.

“Blues should tell a story, and I find that a lot of songs today don’t do that” Harrell says, “but it’s my goal to make a lasting impression”- and he does exactly that.  The songs are sharp, his guitar playing is crisp and melodic, and the man is relaxed, confident and in charge as he builds strong groove after strong groove.  The Right Man was produced by Kid Andersen at his legendary Greaseland USA studios and is loaded with great guitar playing and lively horns.  There’s also Harrell’s rich voice, full of ‘tude well beyond his tender years.  This is the sound of someone doing what he was put on this planet to do. 

It’s a testament to DK’s talent that so many well-traveled veteran musicians assembled at Greaseland to get behind the young phenom for his debut.  Just some of the players involved include bassist Jerry Jemmott (Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Freddy King), drummer Tony Coleman (30 years with BB King), Kid Andersen on rhythm guitar and keyboardist Jim Pugh (Etta James, Robert Cray).  You could say this album is where generations of bluesmen have gotten together to take the music down the road and into the future.

As a guitarist Harrell recalls BB King the most- no shredding or he-man theatrics, just stinging leads with a melodic simplicity and directness that get you right in the heart.  It’s more of a traditional blues sound than, say, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, another young player I greatly admire, but even as such a young man D.K. sounds like he was born to play this style of blues; it fits him so naturally. This is great, great stuff.


HOT TRACKS:  The Right Man, Hello Trouble, Get these Blues Out Of Me

FRIENDS ALONG THE WAY Mitch Woods (Club 88 Records) *****+

This 2 album set was originally released by Mitch Woods in 2017.  Friends Along The Way finds the Bay area keyboard wizard in simple duo and trio settings with a virtual who’s who of the blues world, with 5 tracks in this deluxe edition being previously unreleased.  The arrangements are intimate but effective, bringing some classic numbers alive in a way that is occasionally breathtaking.  Every blues fan should be giddy with anticipation here.

eOne, the original issuing label, decided they would become a film company and dropped promotion on its musical releases including Friends Along The Way.  Woods secured ownership of the masters to release this expanded edition and bring it to the attention of music listeners and blues lovers who never had the chance to hear this incredible record.  This is Mitch’s musical opus and culmination of a life in the blues plus friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

Mitch Woods’s piano features on every cut and out of 21 tracks he only sings on 3.  The guest list of friends and artists that contribute to FATW is staggering Van Morrison, Taj Mahal, Elvin Bishop, Ruthie Foster, Charlie Musselwhite and James Cotton, and that’s just for starters.  Spectacular list of contributing artists aside, what makes Friends worth having is the songs and these performances.  As much as I love bombastic performances, keeping this simple- mainly duo and trio settings- gives the album a relaxed, upbeat feel.  Arrangements this open make it easier for us to get closer to the songs and to appreciate the musicianship.  As the late ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill once noted in a trio there’s nowhere to hide, and it’s a lot of fun.  You can feel that spirit in track, from the version of CC Rider featuring Van Morrison & Taj Mahal that opens the set to Worried Life Blues with Joe Louis Walker at the other end.

From Mitch Woods on down through the guest list, the musicians you hear in these tunes have spent a lifetime doing what they love to do… play music.  It’s a shame that eOne dropped the ball on this back in 2017, but now we have the incredible luck to embrace and appreciate Friends Along The Way as it deserves to be.  I could listen to this all day- and I just might.


HOT TRACKS:  DISC 1:  CC Rider (w/ Van Morrison, Taj Mahal), Blues Mobile (w/ Kenny Neal) DISC 2:  Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive (w/ John Lee Hooker), In The Night (w/ Marcia Ball)

F.U.B.A.R. Hell In The Club (Frontiers) ****

This is the sixth album for this Italian hard rock/ metal super group.  F.U.B.A.R is dense, chewy, riff-tastic catchy-as-hell rock & roll with big choruses that match the walls of guitars. With members of Elvenking and Secret Sphere, Hell In The Club is ready for the world stage.

Hell In The Club is one of those bands that raises the bar each time out and F.U.B.A.R. is no exception.  Recorded at TMH Studio by Aldo Lonobile as well as various satellite studios used by the band members, the disc has an energetic, explosive sound- the kind of rock & roll that can inspire to stand up and just handle your shit, and that’s an inspiring little-examined aspect to this kind of music.  The press I got with the download only lists the band members by their first names; Dave on vocals, Andy on bass, Picco on guitars and Mark on drums, but their performances are sharp and right on the money with an overall density that gives the album some real push.  Dance, sing, bang your head… do whatever these songs move you to do.

Hell In The Club is a fierce combo, one of the rare super groups that lives up to or, in this case, surpasses their promise.  F.U.B.A.R. (not sure about Italy, but here in Canada it means “fucked up beyond all recognition) is like a combination of early Trouble and perhaps Guns ‘N’ Roses, particularly on tracks like Sleepless.  Picco’s guitar work is excellent, with his solos in particular being succinct and well stated, melodically speaking.  While many purveyors of this particular type of rock & roll tend to overplay and go all “weedly-weedly”, Picco has a real roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-on-with-the-job-at-hand ethic that I particularly enjoy.  Of course having a shredding vocalist plus a hammer-and-tongs rhythm section doesn’t hurt either.

Big, powerful, melodic… Hell In The Club’s F.U.B.A.R is magnificent.


HOT TRACKS:  Sleepless, Tainted Sky, Total Disaster


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The Rock Doctor is in the Cyber House to tell you how it is! (or at least my own opinion). Want a music review? email: rockdoc@gonzookanagan.com. \m/


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