SIMO – RISE & SHINE review

Genre: BLUES ROCK

Released by: Provogue/Mascot Label Group

Release date: 15th September 2017

Line up:

JD Simo – Guitar,

Elad Shapiro – Bass,

Adam Abrashoff – Drums,

Tracklist:

  1. Return
  2. Mediation
  3. Shine
  4. People Say
  5. Don’t Waste Time
  6. I Want Love
  7. The Climb
  8. Light the Candle
  9. Be With You
  10. The Light
  11. I Pray

It must be around 20 months now since I reviewed Simos’ debut offering ‘Let Love Show the Way’.  A ground breaking album which left a lasting impression, I suspected it would be a tough act to follow and with a gruelling touring schedule the Nashville Trio seemed in no particular hurry to provide a second instalment. 

As hugely impressive as the debut album undoubtedly was, I was unprepared for the live experience of SIMO which for me came about at 2016’s Ramblin Man Fair as I stood amongst a vast assemblage, rooted to the spot and totally overwhelmed by the sheer talent I was witnessing.  Needless to say therefore, with the announcement of ‘Rise & Shine’, I was eager for more of the same…

Beginning with gentle finger clicking, opening track ‘Return’ has an easy going, steady, funky groove.  An interesting track where vocals sound strangely removed from the music, it is peppered with varying styles of JD Simos’ guitar artistry and eases the listener gently into this album of musical delights.

The following track ‘Mediation’ begins in similar style albeit slightly more upbeat and quickly changes tempo thereafter.  A catchy number demonstrating superb guitar and vocals, it builds rapidly nearing its conclusion and then ends abruptly.

Commencing with what I would describe as a country twang ‘I Want Love’ quickly develops into a lounge jazz style.  Here, in my opinion lies the hiatus of the album.  There are a couple of changes of direction on this song, but I feel it does not redeem itself and on the whole the vocal style and most of the music are as far removed from my personal taste as possible.  As multi-faceted as this album is, for me this track doesn’t fit in here.

‘The Climb’ gets off the ground with an upbeat groove and a voiceover.  Repetitive, penetrative, background rhythm is relatively unchanging while the guitar twists and turns in various directions and another voiceover features before the sudden ending. This track demonstrates sensational guitar playing and showcases the talent of the rhythm section making the absence of lyrics barely noticeable.

‘Light the Candle’ kicks off with some spiralling, heavy “Hendrix” style guitar.  Quite a lengthy track at just over 7 minutes, it is musically and vocally exceptional – like a sensory journey you never want to end.  The heavy rock/blues fusion featured on this track exemplifies the sheer passion and extraordinary talent of this trio of musicians.

A slow burning, ballad type track, ‘Be With You’ doesn’t really pick up pace until the guitar spirals out of control just before midway, thereafter it features a stunning, melodic blues solo with just the gentlest of percussion simmering on the peripheral edge.  Vocals build up intensity in the latter half of the song as the heavy rhythm and guitar turn this on its head and take it in a completely different direction, one which is unrecognisable from how it began and I can only describe as frenzied.  Full of musical surprises, this is a definite album highlight for me.

‘The Light’ is a raw acoustic bluesy number which sounds like it could have been recorded in someone’s kitchen, a long time ago on a reel to reel.  Personally, for me this is impressive, I love this kind of rugged uncomplicated sound – one man, one guitar, lyrically and musically simplistic.  Amazing, that is all…

Surprisingly perhaps, finishing track ‘I Pray’ was the first song I listened to on this album.  I was intrigued to hear what I assumed to be the ten minute plus, musical extravaganza – in similar vein to penultimate track “Aint’Doin’ Nothin’” from the debut album. Musically sensational, ‘I Pray’  commences with a captivatingly haunting melody which features a voiceover in the theme the title suggests.  Thereafter, the music takes on a considerably heavier edge and the first vocals are heard.  It’s worth noting at this point that vocals consist, in their entirety of four repetitions of the words “I pray” spaced out at three intervals throughout and in my opinion the focus of this track is ALL about the musical diversity.  Full to the brim with experimentation, if this were an instrumental I would be sold hook, line and sinker.  The same would apply even if the scant lyrics were thrown in – as they work.  For me though, the voiceover does not and I feel this track may have been improved through its omission.  The saving grace however, is that at 13 minutes long, it does still feature over ten minutes of music that will blow your mind.

A must have for serious music lovers, “Rise & Shine” is an eclectic mix blending various styles with skill and mastery.  As far as these musicians go, assume nothing, expect the unexpected and prepare for a voyage of discovery where nothing is as it seems…

Review: Karen Hetherington

Rating: 9/10

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