07 May 2021 (released)
11 August 2021
America has been a cultural magnet for a long time. Particularly, since the middle of the last century, musicians from around the world have soaked up the tremendous influence from American artists and picked their favourite traits to infuse into their music. Sometimes this is a graft on a well-established structure and sometimes they mould themselves primarily on State-grown styles. The British Invasion bands worshipped Southern blues, the Zamrock and African psych movements of the 70s pulled heavily from Jimi Hendrix and James Brown. Even today's K-Pop sensations are modelling their sound on an Americanized boy band sound. America is undeniably the template for modern popular music.
Blue and Broke are a rock/blues/soul group that hail from Ghent, Belgium but their sound pulls directly from the American songwriting tradition. The soul of Roberta Flack and Gladys Knight, the incisive poetry of punk matriarch Patti Smith, and the bluesy party shuffle of the deep Texas sound. Night Shadows is an eclectic collection of tracks that run the gamut from quirky march to funky trip-hop to gospel revival and back to blues-rock grooves. Vocalist Melissa Anthuenis smartly applies her lilting yet matter-of-fact delivery to each new style, tying the record together as a cohesive piece.
An etude-like piano leads off the record on the opener 'As I Can'. Anthuenis sings a committed inspirational number building to a saxophone solo crescendo conducted in Clarence Clemons fashion by Marc De Maeseneer. The song's thrust has that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band overcoming energy with even the signature 'Born To Run' xylophone coming in at the end to bring it all home. 'Bear It All' has a sauntering back porch in the mid-west vibe with Anthuenis' pure voice having a Julie Andrews-like comforting feel. Guitarist and producer Pedro De Bruyckere's guitar on the twangy 'For a Little While' is directly descended from Keith Richards, using Keef's snaky hammer-ons and pull-offs to lay down a riff somewhere between 'Honky Tonk Women' and 'Tumbling Dice'.
'Most of the Time' gets a big spiritual lift from the Amstel Gospel Choir who back this classic inspirational-styled piece. Anthuenis takes a poignant and nuanced stance proclaiming her beliefs and feelings that she firmly stands behind...most of the time. The song is a joyous lifting of the burden of feeling forced to have to dig in your heels on every issue. We're all fluid beings and we need to be allowed to shift and to grow. The title track follows with a bouncy Turtles feel led by a punchy 60s toned bass and poppy drums.
'Ready' has the most modern vibe of any track on the record. A rolling bassline and steady groove drums give Anthuenis a trip-hop rhythm over which to get expressive. Organ and deep city horns whir by like passing traffic. 'The Shell Game' provides further dimension with a drum-led march accented by demented organ runs. A trick often utilized by The Doors. Anthuenis goes on a rant like a possessed Morrison.
Night Shadows shows off the depth of this multifaceted band. A group whose love of American music has permeated their art in many ways. Yet, the European vibe remains creating a fascinating confluence of musical tributaries.