Surely, if ever a band was made for vinyl it’s Blues Pills. That being the case, the best possible way to experience new album ‘Lady in Gold’ (a title that harks back to the days of Billie Holiday), is on the limited edition gold vinyl – a sparkling, opulent edition that shows off both the band’s analogue sound and exceptional art work to its best effect. Virtually noise free, this is an impressive pressing and well worth getting your hands on.
Whilst you may think you know what to expect from Blues Pills after the sprawling psyche of their self-titled debut, this is a very different album boasting greater depth and maturity without sacrificing the power of that phenomenal debut. A grand soul record but with a searing rock edge, ‘Lady in Gold’ is a record that digs deep and delivers a thrilling mix of sweetness and classic groove, effortlessly ignoring the sophomore curse and underscoring the evolution the band have undergone since their debut exploded.
The album opens with the psychedelic title track. From there off there’s a darker, duskier feel to the music, with Elin Larsson really showcasing her range. It’s a storming opener, but infused with earthy passion and a sense that the band are out to pay homage to their influences with a record that carries one foot in the past and yet offers up timeless songs that will still be exciting fans years into the future. The fiery riff of ‘Little boy preacher’ sees the band kicking out the jams, but once again the effervescent rock that defined their first album is dialled down – exchanged for a glorious soul sound that reaches its peak as multi-layered harmonies abound and new drummer Andre Kvarnstrom pounds his kit into dust. With Rickard Nygren’s organ and Zack Anderson’s creeping bass, ‘Burned out’ looks to Tina Turner for inspiration and the way the chorus opens up has to be heard to be believed. The guitars disappear altogether for the achingly beautiful ‘I felt a change’ which offers Elin a chance to shine as she delivers a career-best vocal over the top of the organ and quasi-orchestral tones of the Mellotron. This is a bold, brilliant track from a band unafraid to step outside the path of expectation and follow their muse to its logical conclusion. The first side of the album concludes with ‘gone so long’, the pounding groove of which segues out of ‘I felt a change’ in a masterstroke of tension and release. It shows that Blues Pills are a band who think in terms of albums rather than tracks and the music is all the better for it. A song that builds to a heady climax, ‘gone so long’ is a powerful track that gives Dorian Sorriaux plenty of opportunity to work his fretboard.
Side two kicks off with ‘bad talkers’ a track that packs an attitude not heard since the last Beth Hart / Joe Bonamassa collaboration. In contrast, ‘you gotta try’ is a bluesy piece super-charged by a kick-ass riff that recalls the Rival Sons at their most belligerent, whilst ‘won’t go back’ is a blistering rock ‘n’ roll track that sees Blues Pills deliver a blues-infused shot of adrenalin that once again underscores the band’s wisdom in taking on Andre, whose powerhouse drumming enlivens the piece. We’re back into soul territory on the thumping ‘rejection’, a track that is given depth by the power and authority of Elin’s performance and it is clear that she stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Beth Hart and Sari Schorr, both remarkable vocalists dealing in a similar currency. There’s so much to admire in Elin’s performance from the grit she infuses into her voice when things get rough to the gentle sweetness that emerges when the band take their collective foot from the pedal. An epic track, ‘rejection’ is a strong contender for album highlight and it builds beautifully as the band allow flaming riffs and blazing organ runs to creep into the mix. Moreover, the dynamic production work gives the song an organic feel and by the track’s conclusion you’re aware that the once quiet song is now howling at the moon. The album concludes with ‘elements and things’ a track that neatly steals the riff from Iggy and the Stooges ‘I wanna be your dog’ and retools it as a huge, stomping soul song – the perfect conclusion to an album that swaggers into the sunset safe in the knowledge that it has thoroughly conquered the listener’s senses with its taut mixture of soul, sass and full-bore rock ‘n’ roll.
Beautifully packaged with Marijke Koger-Dunham’s artwork on the front of the gatefold cover and a lyric insert helpfully included for good measure (although, annoyingly, no download card), ‘Lady in gold’ exceeds all expectations and proves to be the superior of its forebear in every sense. With much expectation riding on this release, Blues Pills imperiously rise above it all and deliver an album that is wonderfully organic. Rooted in classic soul and blues, ‘Lady in gold’ is a timeless treasure and a lasting testament to the ability of this brilliant band.