The Last Days of Rock and Roll – The Snakes

product-8959853Alt-country is a loaded tag, especially the second half of the term. Most people who think that country music starts with Dolly Parton and ends with Garth Brookes will have already stopped reading at this point anyway. Good, now I can get on with talking to the target audience and although The Last Days of Rock and Roll might have alt-country as it’s jumping off point, this is an album that sees the band really expand on their trademark sound.

Maybe it was the re-shuffling of the line up, maybe it is just that they have so much time served that they feel free to indulge their other influences, maybe they are just older and wiser, whatever the reason, it is safe to say that the band are writing some of the best songs of their career. The core sound is still very much definitive Snakes but it is the new sources of inspiration that really flavour the album.

The title track acts as a centre-piece and it carries all the pomp and majesty of the best 70’s Bowie or Mott and either side of it they really give themselves some elbow room, the Springsteen-esque imagery of Guardian Angel, the country-rock of The Band Played On, some of Simon and Richards past appears via the Stones channelling Here We Go Again and there is even time to play the more sentimental card on the compelling and heart-tugging Three Little Wishes. For the first time they have even included a cover, a fairly faithful rendition of Gene Clark’s version of The French Girl.

The familiar themes are in play, hearts break, glory days are reminisced upon, loved ones are missed, angels look down and despair and people love, lose and leave. But as always the stories are generally loaded with just the right amount of hope and optimism, it’s reflective and wistful but philosophical, just like real life.

So I’ll let other review sites pigeonhole this under alt-country, for my money it just needs to go into the “album of the year nominations” section and leave it at that.

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Sometime Soon – The Snakes

product-8585874Watching a band evolve over time is an interesting experience, an experience made even the more enjoyable when the people involved are familiar to you and that evolution results in something truly satisfying. For me The Snakes are just such a band. Having witnessed the core of the band move through a number of ancient incarnations such as Band of Gypsy’s and The Imps and then through almost a decade under the present moniker, it’s great to finally see them truly come of age.

Whilst their debut album, Songs From The Satellites, really started to get their name talked about in all the right places, I think the much quoted accolade of “Muswell Hill’s own Whiskeytown” may have been slightly premature With Sometime Soon however, such a quote is bang on the money.

If the debut album was the sound of a British band borrowing, albeit very deftly, from someone else’s musical heritage, Sometime Soon sees them make a smooth transition across the water, the end result being much more Richmond, Virginia than Richmond upon Thames.

Gone are the more obvious “Stones does Country” references and in it’s place is a much more mature set of songs, this is the album that The Snakes were always destined to make. The brasher lead guitar driven sound of younger days has been replaced by a warmer and more layered approach and it’s this layering that seems to colour the album, the devil, they say, is in the detail and this is one devil of an album.

Amongst the pure country tracks such as Cumberland Breeze and We Can Fly are more introspective thoughts, Interview and the brooding Amaretto. What Have I Done To You even offers up some Latin back beats; maybe something of working as Tommy Hales pick up band got lodged in the subconscious. When it does rock out, which it does gloriously on Tin Foil Town and Come My Way, it is now on their own terms, beholden to none they now sound like…. The Snakes, job done.

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Stolen Conversations, Three Chords and The Truth – Tommy Hale (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

81YurlAyH+L._SL1500_The world inhabited by Tommy Hale’s songs seems a much brighter place these days. Not that it was ever overly morbid or dark, but his previous album, Far From Grace did seemed to be peopled by some fairly lost souls; yes Uncle Jim, I’m talking about you. Stolen Conversations, Three Chords and the Truth, despite the seemingly heavy burden of the title is a much more positive and breezier affair, though without losing the wonderful character studies that flavour his music. It’s just that now that the subject matter is just as personal but somehow more personable and even the more downbeat and reflective lyrical processes seem to be balanced by jaunty upbeat music and vice versa.

It takes an artist assured enough with his own abilities to kick an album off with not one but two covers. I’ll Be Around, penned by and a tribute to his UK musical brethren, The Snakes, whose members appear peppered through out the album, features here as a result of the great song swap of 2007 after which they added the brilliant Libertine to their set, an obvious single and a song that a Whiskeytown era Ryan Adams would probably have killed for.

The second cover comes in the much less obvious form of Just Like Heaven, the spin being that the main riff is transposed for a the trumpet; seeing the Cure rendered into a Mariachi rock delivery is something as brave and experimental as it is brilliantly executed.

As always, Tommy Hale seems to walk that fine, line between out and out rock and roll and a much more considered alt-country vibe, the result being a wonderful weave of upbeat urgency as shown on Belmont and Cecille and the minimal beauty of Hey Marlene. And if Punk Song 68 shows that he can kick out the jams with the best of them, Silver Clouds shows that he doesn’t have to.

It’s an album that doesn’t fall easily into any one genre but could be seen as a musical road trip that goes from Detroit to Nashville stopping off in Alexis Corners’ London blues scene, sleazy after hours Havana, swing door slamming country, tongue in cheek gospel and a big helping of straight up rock and roll. Now, who wouldn’t buy a ticket for that journey?

Sometime Soon – The Snakes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

UnknownWatching a band evolve over time is an interesting experience, an experience made even the more enjoyable when the people involved are familiar to you and that evolution results in something truly satisfying. For me The Snakes are just such a band. Having witnessed the core of the band move through a number of ancient incarnations such as Band of Gypsy’s and The Imps and then through almost a decade under the present moniker, it’s great to finally see them truly come of age.

Whilst their debut album, Songs From The Satellites, really started to get their name talked about in all the right places, I think the much quoted accolade of “Muswell Hill’s own Whiskeytown” may have been slightly premature With Sometime Soon however, such a quote is bang on the money.

If the debut album was the sound of a British band borrowing, albeit very deftly, from someone else’s musical heritage, Sometime Soon sees them make a smooth transition across the water, the end result being much more Richmond, Virginia than Richmond upon Thames.

Gone are the more obvious “Stones does Country” references and in it’s place is a much more mature set of songs, this is the album that The Snakes were always destined to make. The brasher lead guitar driven sound of younger days has been replaced by a warmer and more layered approach and it’s this layering that seems to colour the album, the devil, they say, is in the detail and this is one devil of an album.

Amongst the pure country tracks such as Cumberland Breeze and We Can Fly are more introspective thoughts, Interview and the brooding Amaretto. What Have I Done To You even offers up some Latin back beats; maybe something of working as Tommy Hales pick up band got lodged in the subconscious. When it does rock out, which it does gloriously on Tin Foil Town and Come My Way, it is now on their own terms, beholden to none they now sound like…. The Snakes, job done.

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