Coen Wolters Band – ‘Illumination’ Album Review

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Well goddam this is a funky beast! The Coen Wolters Band are one of those hard-rockin’, hard-living blues rock bands that not only pack a powerful punch, but who also have a funky groove to them that makes you want to sing, dance, tear at your hair and shout from the rooftops all at once. With powerful wah-inflected guitars and Coen’s perfectly phrased vocals it is the perfect music to make you lay back, crack a beer and just sink in to the smoky atmosphere. It’s also a cracking blues release that shows plenty of deference to the masters of the genre whilst simultaneously drawing strength from the worlds of hard rock, funk and soul across its eleven blistering tracks.

The album doesn’t so much start as explode into life with ‘time of day’, a track that sounds like Lenny Kravitz pumped up on steroids and crossbred with Bootsy Collins. By the time Coen sings “I wanna be your everything” the song has already got you hooked with its driving beat and classic vibe, whilst special mention must surely go to Erwin Van Gestel for his fluid bass runs underpinning Coen’s unspeakably hot guitar playing. ‘Complicated’ has a gnarly riff and sweet stabs of organ running through it, whilst Coen’s rich, authentic tones cut straight to the heart of the mix, his soulful voice one part Robert Cray, one part Joe Bonamassa and one part Chris Cornell, and his guitar solo on the bridge is just exquisite. Slowing things down, ‘Into the light’ is traditional blues delivered with the intensity of Tom Waits and the fiery guitar virtuosity of Walter Trout. It’s brilliantly realised blues played with skill and passion by a band of truly skilled individuals and it conjures up images of a dry and dusty crossroads far from civilisation and awash with demonic danger. ‘You, me and your monkey’ heads back into funky territory, Coen straddling the gap between vintage funk and soul, his guitar playing lascivious, his vocals hot, as the band whip up a storm behind him. In contrast ‘home’ is pure soul, an organ-laden piece that cruises on acoustic guitars and Coen’s gritty vocals.

Kicking off the album’s second side is ‘yellow eyes’, a hard-rocking blast of feral blues with thunderous bass, delicious vocal harmonies and Coen seemingly possessed by the spirit of Hendrix on his increasingly fevered fret-board workouts. ‘Shake my tree’ is a more relaxed number with a taut AOR vibe thanks to the seventies-aping keyboard work and Coen’s soulful, melodic vocas, although that is not to say that his guitar work doesn’t shoot sparks as he hammers away at the strings like a man possessed on the solo. Hitting the funk again, ‘I’m gone struts across the record like Perry Farrell in leather, all sensuous guitar moves rubbing up against a driving beat whilst ‘brand new day’ is a blistering blues number with more solos than you can shake a stick at and a vocal performance awash with whiskey and rye.  With a salacious grin and a twisted hook aimed straight at the groin, ‘devil’s train’ is a demonic rocker that blazes away with hellish intensity and addictive melody, suggesting that Coen’s guitar must surely have been forged in the valleys of hell and then, all too suddenly, the album draws to a close and we’re left only with a bonus track, the extended version of album highlight ‘complicated’ to see us out.

‘Illumination’ landed on the doormat a few days ago and it’s fair to say that it’s rarely been off the player. It’s one of those brilliantly fiery blues releases that brims with vim and vigour. Musically the album is very much in the traditional mould, referencing the likes of Clapton, Hendrix, Cray and Trout, but Coen has more than enough nous to keep the melodies taut and memorable whilst he plays like a man possessed. Indeed, the whole band deserve praise for such a beautifully skilled performance, but it’s Coen who shines with his virtuoso skills and rich, warm vocals, and the band are clearly responding to his passionate, powerful presence. Most importantly, ‘illumination’ is just a joy to listen to, a hard-rocking, dangerously addictive record that blazes away in what feels like an instant and which begs to be replayed. ‘Illumination’ is an easy early highlight of 2014 and will undoubtedly provide the perfect soundtrack to the summer.

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