Hard to believe, but this blazing beast of a record is Gary Hoey’s twentieth record. I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Twentieth… This album, that sounds for all the world like the debut of a band so hungry for the music they’re all but burned by the fire, is the work of an artist whose been honing his skills for years. Recorded with just two other musicians in tow – drummer Matt Scurfield and bassist AJ Pappas, Gary simply plugs in and rocks out on this album, throwing both soul and energy into eleven tracks that will have blues fans in raptures.
The album opens with the slithery guitar of ‘Boxcar blues’, the recording harking back to the days of Muddy Waters, only for a more modern production to sweep everything aside as Gary appears, his guitars layered into a beautiful wall of sound that hits you right between the eyes. What a smoking start to the album, sweeping from trad-blues to slide-guitar swept hard rock in the space of just a few minutes. It underscores Gary’s desire on this record to move from the classic blues of his last outing towards a full-bore rock sound, and he certainly does not disappoint. We’re into the rock ‘n’ roll infused blues of Chuck berry and Little Richard with the fifties’ swing of ‘Who’s your daddy’, a wonderful dance number that would have fit perfectly on the Joe Bonamassa ‘Muddy Waters’ album. A chrome-plated blast of hard-rocking blues, ‘Born to love you’ has a sweet ZZ Top vibe to it, whilst Gary’s Wah-inflected riffing scorches all it touches. It’s hard to believe this is the work of a trio and it sounds immense, with drummer Matt pounding the skins for all he’s worth and bassist AJ laying down smooth runs that smoulder just under the surface of the track. The album’s title track is perfectly named with its bleached-bone riff and soaring solos. It’s the sound of the desert, as arid and menacing as ever and yet graced with a hugely memorable chorus that makes you want to stand aloft singing right along with it. With a rolling snare line and throbbing bass, ‘Steamroller (tribute to Johnny winter)’is a potent tribute to a great artist delivered with passion and charm and then we’re into ‘Coming home (featuring Lita Ford)’ which closes the first side of the record with a more delicate touch.
An album highlight, the second side kicks off with the blistering blues action of ‘Ghost of yesterday’ which packs an almighty punch thanks to Gary’s gritty vocal and crackling guitar work. No less impressive is the rippling psychedelic blues of ‘This time tomorrow’ which offers up some of the album’s most sublime guitar work. It’s back into a more classic blues with the delightful ‘Back up against the wall’ which recalls Sonny Landreth’s most recent effort, ‘bound by the blues’, thanks to Gary’s smooth vocal delivery and deft guitar work. However, if you really want the darkest edge of the blues, the Louisiana stomp of ‘Blind faith’ is absolutely the track for you. Digging the same furrow as Walter Trout on recent album ‘battle scars’, ‘blind faith’ is a dark, swampy monster of a track that sees Gary at his heaviest. In contrast, the subtle shifts and glinting sunlight of ‘Soul surfer’ does a perfect job of rounding the album out as Gary dips into a lighter shade of blue with an instrumental track that recalls Eric Clapton’s sun-dappled work of the early nineties. It’s a relatively sedate closing number to a firecracker album and it’s hard to believe you’ve spent just over forty minutes in its company when the disc finally spins to a halt.
Gary Hoey is a veteran who plays with the skills of a lifetime of music and the flame of an artist just embarking upon his career. The power trio format sees Gary, alongside bassist AJ and drummer Matt, digging deep to deliver an album of bruising blues played with a relentless gusto that is often awe-inspiring. Short and sweet, there’s not an ounce of filler present here and, as the instrumental ‘soul surfer’ waves farewell, it’s hard not to feel a touch of sadness, much as one does when you come to the end of a really good novel and have to say goodbye to the characters therein. ‘Dust and bones’ is a fantastic record, full of heart and soul, and it’s pretty much a must for blues fans everywhere.