Crow Black Chicken – Electric Soup
“It’s a murky land of blues rock, cigarette smoke and whiskey haze”; Mark Roche gets the jump on Crow Black Chicken’s debut album Electric Soup before it’s release on June 1st…
The first single released earlier in the year ‘White Lightning’ opens Electric Soup and sets the tone for the remainder; an upgraded Crow Black Chicken introduce their album confidently with self-assured intonation and a bluesy swagger that wouldn’t sound out of place in decades past, albeit a sound that is unique to the Irish music scene right now.
Without re-hashing what others will surely have to say about this band, Christy O’Hanlon’s vocals could grate cheese; his range and devotion to the genre are applaudable and apparent on every track of this album. No more ZZ Top references, no more Rory Gallagher references; this is simply Crow Black Chicken.
The rhythmic grooves of ‘Skin Deep‘ are the second offering on this debut from Clonmel/Cork band. Minimalistic and meticulous in arrangement, the product is a song that dares you not to move and then asks “Come on baby?”. This is one of the sexiest songs an Irish band has produced in this writer’s opinion; Steve McGrath’s bass lines command a seduction that accompanied by three solos and a beautiful Wah filled bridge makes this track a regular crowd-pleaser at live shows.
A sturdy bass line opens ‘Pourin’ Down’, soon to be accompanied by drums and electric guitar in some Zeppelin-esque musical tri-force of effects laden, laid back rock and roll. Recorded in a small cottage in the Comeragh Mountains, the guys approached this record with a mind to capture the essence of Crow Black Chicken; disregarding the usual approach their decision to record everything live at the same time has given this album a beautifully nostalgic sound with the paramount, Philip McGee adding his own expertise to mixing and producing.
My favourite from the album was apparently very nearly not included on Electric Soup at all. A beautifully poignant moment only four tracks into the album, ‘Epitaph’. Christie’s vocals are exceptionally moving and it, “you know you’ll always be alone” it shows a facet of CBC that I had not encountered to date; an affecting tracks that progresses through various sub-genres of blues rock to find itself touching upon various themes and lyrical notions.
Crunchy guitars, domineering bass lines and solid drum beats give ‘Charlie’s Women’ the essence of an amazing blues song. John Lee Wee follows the same line with Gev barrets drums supplying a force to match Christie’s vocals. What was surprising on first listen was how the most simplistic ideas and riffs can be applied by the right people and just ascend to new heights of musical power.
The title track ‘Electric Soup’ is a fantastically intricate song which immediately sounds complicated and emanates that traditional blues. I’ve said it previously, if Crow Black Chicken existed in the eighties, they would have provided the soundtracks to the coolest movies; Patrick Swayze and Co. would probably have enchanted even more women with the help of Christy, Steve and Gev. The endearing words of Christy bring a smile to everyone’s face at the end; in a Helter Skelter ‘blisters on me fingers’ style: “Fuck it, I hope that’s it now!”
‘Bijoue Creole’ has a certain New Orleans feel for it, an almost swing rhythm and staggered guitar offsets the albums tone so far but only the six minute duration of the song; yeah, six minutes, in fact most of the tracks on this album hit the five minute mark if not longer. Slide guitar mixes up the chorus while innovative picking featuring harmonics and changing tones lets this track move around freely, it has a little something for everyone.
Recently released ‘Murmuration’ is one of the heavier tracks on the album and the video is impressive to say the least. The song is an aggressive mix of heavy rock with sludgy blues and yet another track which deals with murder; like those that came before it, it holds a tempo which indicates a standard progression until it takes off. I can imagine this thundering through a stereo with the top down and the pedal to the floor, a cruising song if ever there was one.
‘Lie Awake’ returns to a more restrained tenderness shown on Epitaph with lyrics such as, “You’re a shadow in a doorway, You’re a whisper in a wind, Gonna Lie Awake…”. The effortlessness of such a dramatic change is endearing and it only serves to prove that Crow Black Chicken can move from aggressive hard rock to charming and often touching blues that remind this reviewer of some of Knopfler’s more affecting works. And with an almost immediate end to the sincere felt emotions, a scream opens ‘The Drop’ and a tripartite attack ensues, each member commands a power on this album of which the other seems to have no control over; a battle of instruments all equally as authoritative, their masters all as skilfully adept, the result is a dexterous offering of Crow Black Chickens magnum opus.
The penultimate track, Flowers, sports one of my favourite solos from the album, laden in effects and conviction it leads nicely into ‘John The Revelator’. A song with as many years as there are cover versions and yet CBC‘s version is one of my favourite. I never particularly enjoyed the Nick Cave version and I admittedly probably The Blues Brothers version as they introduced the track to me. However, this version is indeed just as good and Christie’s intonation is nothing short of admirable. The guitar tone is solid and chunky while Gev adds a cadence that allows this track to transcend the gospel origins into a murky land of blues rock, cigarette smoke and whiskey haze.
Ending the album on such a well known track seems like a tip of the hat from Crow Black Chickens to their inspirations and it certainly concludes their debut confidently.
This album is one of the most impressive debuts this year and promises great things from a band who are already writing new material. Electric Soup is released June 1st nationwide and will be followed by a tour encompassing all towns and venues great and small.Check out their official website for gigs and free material or click here for their facebook.
Drop-d Rating: 9/10
Tags: americana, Blues, blues brothers, clonmel, Comeragh, Cork, crow black chicken, Debut album, Electric Soup, glastonbury, grunge, hard rock, new orleans, nick cave, Patrick Swayze, Phil McGee, Review, Rock, Zeppelin