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Federal Charm

Federal Charm

Mystic Records  / www.federalcharm.co.uk

From Manchester in the north of England comes this energy-filled quartet, intent on stamping their own mark on the rockblues scene.   It almost goes without saying that this kind of music is best heard live, given that it is a mix of fuzzy power and (in the playing) a fair degree of sophistication. But Federal Charm have happily managed to bottle some of their electricity in the studio and the cuts on this set are delivered with a crisp confidence. Some compositions are better than others, but you can say that fairly about ‘Astral Weeks’ or ‘Sergeant Pepper’.

Nick Bowden’s voice seems ideally suited to these numbers. ‘Gotta Give It Up’ has a keys intro, insistent guitar riff not a thousand miles from Dream Syndicate – Steve Wynn’s legendary quartet recently in London for a cathartic one-off show – and busy drumming. A good opener !

‘I’m Not Gonna Beg’ has a monster guitar figure ;‘ whilst ‘No Money Down’ is NOT the Chuck Berry car tale but a tricky-riff item with an ascending axe figure – maybe the best song here but only reverb and no delay on the vocal….

‘On to ‘Somebody Help me’ and it’s NOT the Spencer Davis classic take on that song but an original, complete with Spanish guitar fills over an edgy beat ; ‘Reaction’ has a harsh attack and the chaps were unable to rebut my contention that this is really a Black Crowes nod ! Slide guitar featured here but not on open tuning.  The band’s Cooder moment comes on ‘The Stray’ with organ, bump bass, an eerie mood and a great vocal.

The message of ‘There’s A Light’ evades me, but it’s frantic from the off, a fast riffer.  ‘Tell Your Friends’ has a great crunchy signature but that drum sound is too Zep for this listener..could have been a quirk of the room ?  Overall, John Green helps capture the group’s sound very well.

Other highlights – the Chris Duarte-like nagging hook on ‘Come On Down’, the harmony guitar passages on “Too Blind To See’ which must be stormer to play live, the pushy ‘Any Other Day’ which would imho make a cool single. Paul Bowe has an occasional Mick Ronson touch on guitar and sounds different from Bowden which is a plus.  Danny Rigg’s drumming has an eagerness but he’s clearly a listener as the arrangements need him to be ; L D Morawski’s bass is nimble and full-toned.

I guess Federal Charm’s ‘competition’ would be Albany Down and The Answer but in their own way they are as distinctive as the former and overall more original than the latter. May they keep writing and taking the stage, if I were you I wouldn’t pass up the chance to see them play

Pete Sargeant www.fairhearing.co.uk

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