Angel Air Records (label)
04 February 2013 (released)
17 February 2013
Darrell Bath is one of those immensely talented but underappreciated artists who has performed with most musicians and bands that matter, or should matter. And when I say ‘underappreciated’, then I’m not suggesting his fellow peers are incapable of spotting a gem amongst gravel - but we’re talking about someone who deserves to thrill a much larger audience than he currently gets.
For those not familiar with his name: Darrell Bath is a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist who can pride himself of having played with the likes of Dogs D’Amour, and The Ian Hunter Band (Bath wrote ‘Never Trust A Blonde’ which featured on Ian Hunter’s Grammy nominated ‘Dirty Laundry’ album). Before, after, and in between he played with The UK Subs, the Cosmic Groover Project, The Zen Buddha Boot Boys, the Tower Block Rockers, The Yobs and most importantly, The Crybabys. Not necessarily in that order (and I probably failed to mention one or the other additional outfit), but his resume should be enough to impress all you peeps out there.
Despite his non-stop activity, Darrell still found time for a pet project – his solo album titled ‘Love And Hurt’ (yep, the same one I’m reviewing here). It first emerged way back in 2001, then was re-released a decade later by Angel Air Records. Thanks to a positive response by critics and fans alike, the album has been included once again into the label’s 2013 catalogue. So that’s where I come in.
According to Darrell, the whole album has a definite ‘Memphis attitude’ to it. He was adamant to strive for something more vintage, like a “spindly ’63 guitar sound’, and with bands like The Flamin’ Groovies and The Kinks in mind -although a strong nod to Bob Dylan prevails on ‘Love And Hurt’.
Fellow UK Sub Icen Killen does the drum work, Paul Francis (Ian Hunter Band) plays the bass, and Hugh McKenna (The Sensational Alex Harvey Band) can be heard on organ, piano and accordion. Once again, call me impressed! As for Mr. Bath, he plays everything else (i.e. Höfner as well as Les Paul Junior guitars, lap steel, harmonica, and harp). He also provides the singing, naturally!
The result is understated yet perfectly nuanced, with well-balanced layers that are just so. Just like with finest Scotch whisky, the secret lies in the blending and the mix of ingredients.
Opener ‘’So Young So Wise’ offers a slice of that ‘Memphis attitude’ straight away – a chirpy little honker with roots dug up in the Deep South. While Darrell’s singing leans towards Dylan’s nasal twang, the pedal steel/slide guitar add a smoother richness. The general tone, completed by the click-click of the fingers, could well pay homage to the likes of swamp fox Tony Joe White (‘High Sheriff of Calhoun Parish’ to throw an example). And of course, Guthrie and Dylan…
‘Bit Of Your Pride’ (which apparently took fifteen years to complete!) invites the listener into more sedate surroundings. The harmonious arrangement has the ghost of John Lennon flutter by, with a beautifully slow build reminiscent of ‘Jealous Guy’.
On title track ‘Love And Hurt’ Darrel never allows his inner demons to run amok, and bridges the melodious and Neil Young-inspired guitar with bittersweet wording. A defining harmonica increases the texture and adds to the simmering mood.
As for ‘Still Learning’ – the overall upbeat composition, a catchy Tom Petty-style chorus, and ironic lyrics make this my firm favourite (on a par with the title track): (“Well time was running out for her and her lover / the one chance she got given she went and blew for another / the backdoor slams – boom boom – no rehearsing / but that’s alright, baby, I’m still learning”))
The universal lament of the bluesy ‘Stop Talkin’ Bout Money’ (“intro coming up, let’s get out of here”) turns the country-tinged ‘Sweet Warm Lover’ into a soothing lullaby by comparison. Both tracks seduce with their honesty, while tender passion filters through.
‘To Die For’ is once again classic country-roots-rock, but it’s the fragility of ‘Tumbleweed’ that does it for me (just like the aforementioned ‘Still Learning’). Darrel operates gentle here. The instrumental accompaniment is on the sparse side (bar the slide), and Darrell uses his vocals delicately. It’s one of those songs that put you in a floaty mind-frame (and don’t bogart that joint, my friend).
Listening to the plea of ‘Don’t Go Waistin’ My Heart’, one can’t help but offer some solidarity. On the whole, the song is bound to bring a heart of steel to meltdown point and harks back to the restrained subtlety of ‘Tumbleweed’. Emotions are laid bare with a mellifluous voice, but thankfully we are spared the sugar-laced drivel that tends to go hand in hand with such topics. Now, pass me that hanky!
The album features 2 bonus tracks, namely the Nikki Sudden penned ‘All The Good Times’, and the Rolling Stones cover ‘Flight 505’.
Musically, the former is another slice of classic Americana, while the song’s lyrics are worthy of being turned into a short film - albeit firmly set in London. Here, it’s John Barry on bass and Danny Hole on drums.
As for the latter, different musicians again (with the exception of Mr. Bath of course), and it’s Stevie Klasson’s boogie-woogie piano in particular that contributes to the song’s honky-tonk swagger. Pretty groovy fretwork, too! As far as the singing is concerned, I don’t think Mick Jagger needed to worry about possible competition, still, this is a rendition that does the original more than justice. Actually, it’s a real stomper!
This solo-offering is indeed a decidedly ‘retro-vibe’ affair, performed by an artist par excellence, and who knows a thing or two about old school blues ‘n’ roll. The songs are strongly roots-orientated, and the album’s charm lies in the fact that it succeeds in transmitting that certain “let’s play some intimate music in the dingiest hole in town” feel.
What we get is a little treasure that ought to be resurrected time and time again, take my word for it! Then again, never trust a blonde…