I’m by no means exaggerating when I say Ricky Warwick has been one of the unsung heroes of rock. For the best part of 30 years he’s been treading the hard rock boards with acts such as New Model Army, The Almighty, Circus Diablo and of course Thin Lizzy. And now with the Lizzy spin off, Black Star Riders, the Northern Ireland native is at last getting some mainstream kudos.
Not one for resting on his laurels, the release of the new BSR album is imminent, he has just released not one, but two solo albums. The acoustic Hearts on Trees and the electric, When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (and Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues).
Presbyterian Homesick Blues
Tank McCullough Saturdays
Hearts on Trees
Said Samson To Goliath
Way Too Cold For Snow
The Year of Living Dangerously
No doubt the song title of the year must go to opener Presbyterian Homesick Blues. This grizzly, country blues tune, snarls and spits attitude. Despite holding residence in Los Angeles, the profoundTank McCullough’s Saturdays, has Warwick in a sentimental mood, recalling simple times in his hometown of Newtownards. No matter where you reside on this planet, the unfeigned lyrics will strike an emotional chord.
Maybe I have a warped sense of humour, but I found the lyrics to Psycho humorously harrowing. Telling the tale of a boy who massacres those closest to him, it’s deadpan delivery brought a wry smile to my face. The wonderful folk styling of title track, Hearts on Trees, makes way for the thought provoking, Said Samson To Goliath. Warwick’s poetic imaginary paints a stark reminder of past conflict in Northern Ireland.
But the real money shot on this album is the simple but brilliantly executed, Way Too Cold For Snow.Once again Warwick’s storytelling holds you captive from start to finish. Schwaben Redoubt is pure Celtic shindig tomfoolery, best to be played loud holding a large glass in the wee hours. The Year of Living Dangerously may have a James Bond like title, but Warwick displays more suave and sophistication in three minutes than the tuxedo clad womaniser could in a weekend.
Closing out with Disasters and 82, I have to admit that I have struggled to find anything remotely negative on this album. It’s magic lies in it’s simplicity and metrical honesty. If you think Warwick is all about ball bruising rock, this sublime collection will more than crush that notion.
Written by Brian Boyle
The Road to Damascus
When Patsy Cline Was Crazy
That’s Were The Story Ends
Johnny Ringo’s Last Ride
Gold Along The Cariboo
The Son of the Wind
If Your Not Gonna Leave Me
Despite the brilliance of Hearts on Trees, few could argue where Ricky Warwick’s natural habitat lies and that is without doubt, with axe slung low and fully charged. And that’s what we got on opener,The Road To Damascus. Full throttle guitars and some nifty Pete Entwistle-esque bass. But he also knows how to brew a hook. Celebrating Sinking practically churns them out. If we lived in a fair and just music world,this would be plastered all over the airwaves.
Title track, When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (and Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues), doesn’t quite hit the heights of the opening tracks. It remains a tad one dimensional throughout. But not so on Toffee Town. The rebel roaring tone of this track has a wonderful toxic mix of both Celtic and punk vibes. A saddled up Warwick gets his Johnny Cash out on That’s Were The Story Ends, showing superlative versatility in his songwriting. Johnny Ringos’ Last Ride and Gold Along The Cariboo maybe safe and predictable rockers, but the Ulster man doesn’t over complicate his music.
For the first hint of metal on the album, The Son Of The Wind, unleashes itself with a wallop. This isRicky doing what Ricky does best. And his best is most definitely saved for last with the closing two numbers. First up, If Your Not Gonna Leave Me, a bawdy belter that i just couldn’t stop playing. And finally closing a hefty slice of Americana with the Springsteen loaded Yesteryear. A fantastic parting shot to a massively impressive album.
Huge credit must go to co writer Sam Robinson. Warwick truly has a kindred spirit here, with 20 tracks between the two albums theres not a filler in sight. Each track has a story to tell and are performed with a heartfelt honesty. Probably one of the most genuine collections of music I’ve heard in a long time.
Written by Brian Boyle