Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
In advance of the album’s release on March 23 2018, The Kris Barras Band played a launch show in support of The Divine And Dirty at Thousand Island (formerly Upstairs at the Garage) a few days earlier.
The album, which is being released via Provogue/Mascot Label Group contains some seriously impressive British Blues Rock yet it’s an album I deliberately avoided listening to because I wanted to experience the Kris Barras Band without any expectations or preconceptions.
Kris Barras is a former Mixed Martial Artist and the singer and guitarist has fought in front of 8000 people, lived it up in Las Vegas, dealt with bankruptcy, suffered a deep and personal loss, unleashed southern-fried blues fury on stages across Europe and been voted one of the best 13 Blues Guitarists in the World Right Now in 2017. With that sort of background, it has to be best to see him and the band for the first time untainted by any previous knowledge of his music.
If you pause for a moment and think about Kris’s love of music, punching people in the face for a living isn’t necessarily the best decision you make in life when one wrong move could potentially ruin your ability to play guitar. Thankfully, the injuries never affected his hands and he now returns with a fresh album, a fresh record deal and a desire to finally make music the career he’s always sought.
Robert J Hunter
Opening the show is Robert J Hunter a man and his guitar who, when it’s JUST a man and a guitar, really should not sound that good. Normally part of the bigger Robert J Hunter Band, to see a stripped down set from him really brought home just what a powerful voice he had. Drenched in emotion and getting his acoustic guitar to make sounds that in theory shouldn’t be possible rapidly did the job of warming the crowd up.
A smart move, starting slowly, letting the sound build and then hooking us in before acoustically blowing the first few rows away shows some skills.
Treading the boards in support of his new album and fourth studio release, ‘The Robert J Hunter Band’ which was released in February 2018, his music features the iTunes number one singles, ‘Wait Your Turn’ and ‘Suzy’.
The self-titled LP is definitely worth checking out and captures The Robert J Hunter Band playing as a band should in a studio ‘live’. Described as an honest record, not hidden behind the makeup of over production, what more could you ask for.
Listen here: http://smarturl.it/RJHB
The Kris Barras Band
New album, The Divine And Dirty wears its heritage proudly. Songs such as I Don’t Owe Nobody Nothing, Propane and She’s More Than Enough shows the breadth of influences that stretches back to Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Howlin’ Wolf and Free. But there’s a modern energy to it as well that places Kris Barras in a similar mould to current heavyweights such as Rival Sons, Black Stone Cherry and The Cadillac Three. If that’s not enough to hook you in and make you check out the music then watch the two lead videos from the album below. The revelation moment for me in the show was ‘Hail Mary’ and, as I write this, the song continues to bounce around in my head, such was the impact. Remember, I’d deliberately stayed away from pre-release copies of the album and also YouTube. So the launch show was a wholly new experience and that song was enough to turn me into a believer.
The show itself started tentatively. A slow warm up, wall of sound and the set then kicked off with a trio of tracks, ‘Wrong Place, Wrong Time’, ‘Can’t Help You Now’ and ‘I Got Time’. All well performed and oozing soul and emotion, the songs presented a feeling of “hmm not bad at all” which, for my American friends, means “I do actually like this”.
The turning point however is when ‘Propane’ kicks in. If ever a band and label have identified the right two songs to launch an album it’s with this and ‘Hail Mary’. Kudos to whoever chose these as they nail the heart of the band to the wall for all to see (and hear).
Immediately followed up with my personal turning point ‘Hail Mary’, I moved from “Not bad at all” to “Holy Crap, I cannot believe I missed this band at Ramblin’ Man Fair last year. The end result now is that I’m doing gig number 2 on March 28th in my local town venue. As Depeche Mode once said “I just can’t get enough”.
Having retired from the cage in 2014, feeling like he had achieved everything that he was going to achieve. Kris now concentrates on the coaching side of things and that of course allows him time to start enjoying the music again. Today, he also co-owns two gyms in the West Country of England, and still trains and teaches fighters.
‘Heart on Your Sleeve’ definitely sums up that work ethic, and ‘Stitch Me Up’ definitely feels like a reflection on the fighting career that he was so successful with.
The secret ingredient, special sauce or whatever you want to refer to it as comes in the shape of Kris’s band; Josiah J Manning (Keyboards), Elliott Blackler (Bass) and Will Beavis (Drums). Typically a blues outfit is a three piece, the drums and bass supplementing the talented emotive guitarist and singer stood front and centre. With Kris adding Josiah to the mix, the keys add so much emotion the songs verge, at times on gospel tracks and really fit the deep south vibe that cannot fail to entertain.
Some groove, some blues, some vibe and whole lotta soul can be found in a Kris Barras Band performance and, as Kris channeled his admiration for the late Gary Moore throughout the bulk of the show, he let rip Hendrix style at the end of the night with a monumental performance of ‘All Along The Watchtower’.
To mix MMA with Mortal Combat for a second to describe the show, I think “Flawless Victory” pretty much summed up the night.
Check out the band on their extensive tour which is on right now. Dates below:
20 March – Thousand Islands, London
23 March – The Wharf, Tavistock
24 March – The Palladium, Bideford
27 March – The Comrades Club, Coulsdon
28 March – Bourne to the Blues Club, UKP Leisure, Sittingbourne
29 March – The Iron Road, Evesham
30 March – Yardbirds Club, Grimsby
31 March – Aatma, Manchester
04 April – Haven Club, Oxford
05 April – The Face Bar, Reading
06 April – The Warehouse, Harrogate
07 April – The Supporter’s Club, West Hartlepool
08 April – Fuel, Cardiff
12 April – Regent Theatre, Ipswich w/BETH HART
13 April – The Musician, Leicester
14 April – De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill-On-Sea w/BETH HART
15 April – Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham w/BETH HART
18 April – New Theatre, Oxford w/BETH HART
19 April – Leas Hall, Folkstone w/BETH HART
21 April – St David Hall, Cardiff w/BETH HART
24 April – Corn Exchange, Cambridge w/BETH HART
26 April – Opera House, Blackpool w/BETH HART
27 April – City Hall, Hull w/BETH HART
30 April – Hexagon, Reading w/BETH HART
01 May – Guild Hall, Portsmouth w/BETH HART
18 May – The Abertillery Blues Rock Festival, Abertillery
15 June – LoveRocks Festival, Ferndown
01 July – Ramblin’ Man Fair, Maistone
22 July – Upton, Worcester