Grumble grumble… Liverpool…. grumble grumble… Talent from drinking the water of the river mersey. Grumble… Annoyingly good songs.
So…. My boys from Liverpool The Heavy North dropped their new album.
And guess what?
It’s bloody brilliant.
This for me takes over from where their debut album left off, it’s bluesy as hell, they’ve honed their already disgustingly talented work and they’ve brought fire.
Let’s go in!
- Delta Shakedown
The opening track starts out low growl, kick and floor tom delivered by Mark Rice (Drums & Percussion), plus guitar and bass riffing the same melody as played by Jose Ibanez (Guitarist, Producer, Backing Vocals) and Andrew Horrocks (Bass, Backing Vocals)… we are off to a flying start! I love the retro organ in this as well as the electric piano, if I was to hazard a guess Ste Penn (Keyboard & Organ) has broken out the Vox for this one. It’s nice and thin and works well on this. Meanwhile, my dude Kenny Stuart (Singer, Frontman, Guitarist) powers in with his vocals. I swear this guy has been learning from the greats in his sleep…
This song oozes sensuality as well… you can just feel it! Nice guitar solo as well from 2:06 along with a harmonica! Slightly distorted too. Plus the keyboard taking a few bars from 2:26… this track definitely gives us an idea of where the album is going…
- Where Are You Now?
I played this song earlier this year on the show, and this is probably my favourite so far. I’ve been trying to place where I have heard Kenny’s vocals before – he’s channeling Jack Bruce. Think more “I Feel Free” than “The White Room” but more depth and warmth. This is kicking the tempo up even further. The toms take a batrering on the intro again, but what really stands out for me is the backing vocals there’s a really lovely section in the chorus but it’s in the second verse at 1:03, it’s not conventional. The layered harmonies work so well, and it gets even more beautiful at 1:40 where Kenny goes off into his falsetto but the rest of the BGVs lift him up. There’s a brilliant dead stop too. Love it.
- Give A Little Love
The guitars more to the front on this one, everything has gone up a tone in key! If this was played in California in the early 60s the surfers would love it. The lyrics here carry a simple message – give a little love to get a little love.
I have to give some props up for two special ladies that lifted this up a notch their backing vocals are something else! Rosalie Galvin and Molly Fryo, take your flowers for this one.
- Round Again
The key is dropped back again to give this one a bit of menace. I like the fact that this opens with a filter pass to make it sound like the intro is coming from a transistor radio. The lazy disinterested count off will fool you because this song is anything but. The guitar at 1:44 SHREDS in the lower register before giving way to Kenny’s harmonica solo, and for me this is probably going to be the standout track live. I love the way the chorus is sung in unison, but one in the higher range and one in the lower…
Nice touch. Love this.
- I See You, Do You See Me?
Nice bit of slowed down blues, the groove is laid back on this. One thing I’ve learned about blues is that it has a push and pull factor, it’s not rigid in any way or set to a standard. So with this in mind, this give space for more notes to be added, this starts on an upbeat, not on the down beat.
Jose deploys a bit of delay and a bit of wah here but it’s not distracting in the least, it just gives the song a really psychedelic feel. What I also like about it is that it has a bit of a gospel feel to it too. Loving the electric piano on this!
- I Couldn’t Love You More
Okay now the tempo goes back and this is more leaning on the blues/hard rock end of the spectrum. But there are surprises! To begin with we are treated with the guitars being given all the main heavy work, wahs, mutted, and the bass and drums laying down the rapid rhythm… badah. Badah. Badah,
Surprises! There the appearance of a horn section in the chorus, but then there’s a fab trumpet solo which is short and sweet from 1:08 before the second verse. The BGVS really give it some on this track too. There’s a guitar duel too this is stuff like battling for your soul, I wonder how many takes it took to get to this version I love how both solos play the same part towards the end of their section.
Now for the big climax – just when you think it’s all over at 2:48 it goes double time. Think Amy Winehouse “Valerie” but harder and looser before going back to the intro.
Wow. I need water after that one!
Best track on the album.
- Don’t Need Money
This is a little more minimal. The electric piano is playing a really simple arpeggio you can hear a Motown influence in there with the drum fills, and the big chorus part. This is as retro as the album gets, you can tell The Heavy North called on the spirits of their influences with this . The big build up to the end shows that these guys did not rush the arrangement, it’s a powerful bluesy rock number that cuts through everything to bring it home.
- Play It Safe
Oh wow. From minor to major chords. And they break out acoustics with horns and strings…I swear that’s an acoustic piano and not a synth and… hold on.
*sniffs air* upright.
Yep. Slightly old and distuned. It’s got character to it and I like that.
This song brings out the orchestra fully on it and gives this song the feel of not just folk but the feeling that it needs to be over some kind of Disney Original show montage. I think you guys should get in touch with Christa Miller for this one. This is so folksy, this is the band’s phone camera torch in the stadium moment.
The lyric that made me smile is:
“You don’t have to worry if you’ve got no money,
Just come on now and play it safe with me.”
In this time where the cost of living is constantly on the news and wars are breaking out with no rhyme and reason, this is a song of comfort. Definitely in my top three of an album of bloody strong songs!
No. This is not a cover. But the energy at which this song comes flying out is something else!
I love the call and response with the BGVs on this and the oohs over the guitar solo. No one is sitting back and doing nothing here they really do shine. The horns come blasting too, I think the arranging is one of the key parts of this album, and this is the one track I can really say nailed it for me.
It’s an angry track. This is about not taking any more crap from someone it’s like that’s it I’m done I’m out. This is about as angry as it gets on this album.
I like the attitude on it.
- Forever Without You
Slowed down blues in 6/8 to close the album. The drums sound really airy on this, very spacious, and sets the tone for the whole song. It’s a vintage sound adding to it that psychedelic vibe too. But there’s a big wall of sound feeling to it hence why when everything comes rushing in at 4:32 it’s no surprise. Phil Spector would be proud of this, this is in my top 3 favourite tracks on the album.
Clocking in at 6:12 this is an epic closer!
I need to lie down after this.
All in all, this album just bangs. I can’t say any more than that.
The boys definitely took a dip in the Mersey for this one.
Recorded, mixed and produced by Jose Ibanez at 3rd Planet Recording Studio, Liverpool. Mastered by Martin Kuchta at Roughgrain Mastering. Artwork by Black Hand Design. Photography by Blue22 Photography. Manufactured by Press On Vinyl and CD Unity
The Heavy North are Kenny Stuart, Jose Ibanez, Andrew Horrocks, Jack Birch, Ste Penn & Mark Rice
Additional Personnel: The Northern String Quartet (Strings), Martin Smith (Trumpet), Rosalie Galvin (Backing Vocals), Molly Fryo (Backing Vocals).