Not ones to mess around, Ed Stones and the BD3 offer up this twenty-two track record with a warning that if you like your music homogenous, you’d be best off heading to the nearest Golden Arches in search of such pre-packaged nonsense because here you’ll only find the real deal. Hailing from Grantham and based in Bradford, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ed Stones spent his formative years sitting on the porch, plucking away on a guitar and drinking moonshine rather than plying his trade under the grey skies of the North of England, so authentic is the southern twang that runs through the music.
Drawing together desert blues (‘many must die’), whiskey-oaked rock ‘n’ roll (‘I got the devil inside of me’ and gnarled country (‘girl on the run’), what may surprise is how coherent the album sounds despite its wide range of influences and you can easily imagine that live shows must be a riot. An early highlight of the album is the staccato rhythm of ‘Addiction’ which audaciously marries up the patois of a British street thug with the easy musical swagger of a New York bar band. It’s an odd juxtaposition, but it has a surprising authenticity that is irresistible and liable to be a festival favourite whenever the band head out on the road. Equally impressive is the blues stomp of ‘taking its toll’ which has a gritty bass rumble underpinning the gnarled guitar and clipped vowels of the vocals. A tantalising insight into what Syd Barrett might have sounded like if he’d grown up Bradford, ‘song about nowt’ is a psychedelic wig-out that offers up a contact high just form listening. In contrast ‘cup of coffee’ is a blazing pop song that has more in common with Pulp and the Longpigs than the blues. It keeps the listener always on their toes as the references fly by thick and fast, and by the time we arrive at the dirty groove of ‘step aside’ we’re lost in the band’s spinning imagination.
With a scratchy guitar riff at its heart, ‘Oi dickhead’ has a punky feel whilst ‘this is not depression’ belies its title with a down cast guitar figure and a Nick Cave vibe. Referencing the sad state of affairs in the country today (and more pertinent than ever with the referendum looming), ‘Political indifference’ is a blues pastiche that recalls the slithery noise of Barry Adamson whilst ‘teeny tiny mind games’ is a stripped-down track that hints at Ed Stones past as a solo artist, with the band taking their time to kick into the groove. Emerging out of shuffling radio stations, ‘paranoid stoner’ once again digs into the UK indie scene circa 1995 and you can imagine this band sharing a stage with the likes of Strangelove and Blur such is their cheerful eclecticism. The savage rock ’n’ roll edge kick back into play on ‘nothing left to say’, a punky number with hugely distorted bass and ska-fuelled guitars underpinning a sneering vocal that emerges from the speakers with real power. The album concludes with the slow-building, echoing beauty of ‘what you looking at’, a feral street cry retooled as a dark, dreamy finale by a band who absorb influences like a sponge absorbs moisture. It’s an amazing last track and one that perfectly sums up the passion and skill that lies at the heart of Ed Stones and his band and it leaves you very much wanting more.
Ed Stones and the BD3 are a quite remarkable band. Ostensibly rooted in Americana, the lyrical conceit is quintessentially English (occasionally dishearteningly so as the band cut close to the bone with some of their concepts) which makes for music that is quite unlike anything else out there. The sort of band you can easily imagine capturing, and enrapturing, a festival crowd, Ed Stones and the BD3 are energetically eclectic and ‘cook book’ captures them delivering a varied set that never pales. If you’re looking for music that endeavours to go beyond the ordinary, then ‘Cook book’ is undoubtedly for you.