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Gods & Highways & Old Guitars

Krossborder records

That the sturdy blues/rock/Americana sound of London area band Roadhouse travels has been evidenced time and time again by the international airplay that the ensemble garners with each successive album release. Thus far this new set seems to be gathering traditional attention and then some.

Driven, as ever, by the power house rhythm section of Bill Hobley and Roger Hunt, the group sounds utterly focussed from the off as ‘Hell on Wheels’ punches out of your speakers. The more you listen to the current edition of Roadhouse, the more you realise that main writer and proprietor Gary Boner and ace guitar man Danny Gwilym have distinctively different guitar styles. However this works in favour of the group’s dynamic attack with Boner’s chiming arpeggios and buzzing solo runs weave in and out of Danny’s classic rock edgy chords and pokey leads. It is pleasing that they have collaborated on some of the selections here. Somehow the classy Martin Cook artwork, evoking heartland America in the Depression, exactly suits the gritty music on the album and none more so that on ‘Skinwalker’ with its harsh Boner vocal and tuneful vocal work by Mandy G and Sarah Harvey-Smart. Also appearing on the record here and there – Suzie D, who has sung many times at the band’s shows.

When a new album is released it is always interesting to the Roadhouse follower because Boner tends to put compositions into the set list as they are readied. Therefore familiar songs are mixed with material one has not heard.

Highlights of this record – the emphatic title cut ‘Gods & Highways & Old Guitars’ with fine Mandy G reading of the lyric against a prairie chug; the Who-like chordal intro and film noir lyric of ‘Katrina’. As ever Boner’s lyrical writing reeks of vintage Robert Mitcham and Lee Marvin films and this is a key element in his muse, not to mention supportive factor in his vocal delivery. Probably more than other recent releases this album plays up the gritty male/sweet female contrast. The guitar runs here are a curious mix of fluidity and stutter, with the chorus having more than a tinge of middle period Fleetwood Mac.

‘Slow Down’ is a nimble boogie with Sarah sounding confident and the rhythm section sharp as a tack. Mandy G sings ‘Blues Motel’ as only she can, bringing a mixture of world weariness and pure soul against a lively guitar arrangement. Closer ‘Sinner’ has a tinge of The Band in its dark-cloud setting moving into a fleet axe weave and a precise vocal arrangement, that GB ache present and correct. He does sound as though he has much to get off his chest.

And so Roadhouse fly the flag for punchy music with sophisticated elements and long may they continue to deliver.

Pete Sargeant

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