The blues calls many a musician with its siren song, but few, it seems, are chosen to be its representative. Legends abound in the blues, perpetuated by tribute albums and endless re-workings of material, and the likes of Muddy Waters, B.B King, Robert Johnson and Buddy Guy are names that will resound down the generations thanks to their remarkable contributions to the genre. But what of younger blues artists? In truth, in the last decade we have seen a number of artists grow in stature. Artists like Derek Trucks, Philip Sayce, Joe Bonamassa and, of course, Danny Bryant have all risen to prominence in recent years thanks to a combination of stellar playing, a gritty determination to tour and fantastic bouts of wild-eyed innovation and it is of the latter that we are here to speak today.
Born in 1980 in the UK, Danny Bryant is a prodigious talent. Possessed not only of a Faustian skill on the guitar, the man also has a fantastic voice which recalls John Mayall in his prime. A fiery, innovative player, Danny Bryant has been building a rapidly increasing following since his first album (2002’s ‘watching you’) and, with ‘temperature rising’, the artist’s seventh studio album, he seems set to increase it yet further. Put simply, ‘temperature rising’ is one hell of an album with a more than apt title.
Kicking off with ‘best of me’, Danny Bryant and his co-conspirators (Trevor Barr on drums and Alex Phillips on bass), pull no punches, unloading a furious guitar groove upon the listener without so much as a by-your-leave, Danny’s gritty tones giving the lyrics real bite even as he tears into his fret board like a man possessed. This is the amped up blues of Buddy Guy on fire, or Clapton with Cream, and the result is an instant adrenalin surge that threatens to send the listener dizzy in the first five minutes alone. ‘Take me higher’ is a gleeful stomp that draws upon artists such as Walter Trout and John Mayall for inspiration, the ecstasy-inducing chorus but a glorious moment of melody amidst a thousand burning riffs. Next up, ‘nothing at all’ is a song to dance to if ever there was one, Danny giving a performance that glows white hot as Richard Hammerton gives his keyboards some serious abuse. It’s bright and breezy rock ‘n’ roll, the sort of thing that makes you yearn for sunshine, friends and beer, and its lighter touch works wonders after the gritty opening gambit. In contrast, ‘Together through life’ is a beautifully lush blues ballad complete with Danny’s most vulnerable vocal performance to date. In any other hands it might be in danger of appearing overly sentimental, but here it just feels like an open, honest and from the heart performance from an artist who simply does not know how to dissemble.
Heading back into grittier pastures, ‘razor sharp’ recalls the Stephen Stills’ recent work with The Rides, Danny’s gnarled vocals a dark ‘n’ dirty counterpoint to the heart-on-its-sleeve ‘together through life’. As you might expect, the guitar playing is incomparable throughout whilst the track is given extra depth thanks to Richard’s keyboard work. The title track has a mid-paced anthemic feel to it, all acoustic guitars backing the stinging leads, and the emphasis here is on Danny’s old-before-his-time vocals, Danny singing in his wonderfully oak-aged voice “I’ve got pains in my heart and a fever in my soul, there’s a demon in me that’s taken control”. It’s a memorable and beautifully written track that gives Danny the singer plenty of space to shine, although guitar fans will find plenty to admire too in the latter sections of the song. With the sun setting and the bar signs slowly blinking on, ‘time’ sees Danny slow the pace for a song that recalls Neil Young more than Buddy Guy with its falsetto vocals and languid mood. A beautifully slow burning song, complete with piano and extended guitar solos, ‘time’ is a powerfully memorable moment on the album. ‘Mystery’ brings back the boogie with Richard’s piano going head to head with Danny’s archetypal blues riff, and you can easily imagine boots on the dance floor for this one. The album’s closing track is ‘Guntown’, another atmospheric piece of music that sounds surprisingly vulnerable as Danny indulges his love of Americana with hints of Dylan and John Hiatt abounding in the song’s desolate atmosphere.
2014 has been a fine year for the blues. With albums from John Hiatt, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Rides, Joe Bonamassa and Philip Sayce all released this year it is hard to stand out, and yet stand out Danny Bryant does. Featuring a mere nine tracks, ‘Temperature rising’ does not feature even an ounce of filler, and Danny and his band make every moment count as they range across the landscape of the blues taking in beautiful boogies, awesome guitar workouts and lonely strolls across rural America as they go. ‘Temperature rising’ is an emotive, emotional rollercoaster of an album, a master-class in guitar playing and a lesson in how to incorporate numerous influences into one cohesive whole and it is a near perfect example of everything that the blues should be.