Bands returning from a long hiatus have a tendency to take one of two routes. Either they comeback with a view to reliving past glories and deliver an album which reminds you just why side two of their previous release has never been played, or they pour all the intervening years life experience, thought, reflection and musical exploration into something that speaks about where they are now. Thankfully the latter route was exactly the one Red Moon Joe took with 2013’s comeback album Midnight Trains and it is what we find them continuing to do on Time & Life.
Listening to the album, it comes as no surprise that main man Mark Wilkinson spent the intervening years playing guitar with everyone from Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt to Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris but if the musical outlines are drawn with an American hand there is some subtle British colouring in at work. Orgreave is as emotive and defiant as the title demands, Hard Road is a nod to their cow-punk roots and One Day Behind reminds me of that country-blues meets sleazy rock clash of East Nashville meets Camden Town that first pointed my way to explore authentic roots music in the first place. The fact that the album also boasts a number of famous faces, including Del Amitri’s Justin Currie also speaks of the quality of what the band has created here.
British-Americana is a hard line to walk, lean too far one way and you are a pastiche playing with borrowed sounds, too far the other and you are a just a band trying to hitch your fortunes to a genre in the ascent but with which you have little in common. Red Moon Joe in many ways define what British-Americana should be, music with stateside outer trappings but beating with a very British heart.