I’ve no idea how old Kim Simmonds is but he’s spent over 50 years rocking the blues and doesn’t appear to be letting up with this Savoy Brown’s 40th album.
City Night offers no major surprises but it’s a persistent and compelling work. Blues and blues rock to the core, there’s a hard driving shifting rhythm courtesy of bass player Pat DeSalvo and drummer Garnett Grimm, while Simmonds lays down the guitar lines just like he’s always done while singing out the tunes too.
While the musical genre is fixed the song writing has a contemporary feel. It’s urban, gritty, sometimes asks difficult questions at others points out that nothing seems to change no matter how time is supposed to move on.
‘Walking On Hot Stones’ is a persistent heavy stomp down the sidewalk while a lazy don’t-give-a-stuff slide nonchalantly cruises by. It gets inside your head and you think it’s going to stay there all day but then along comes ‘Don’t Hang Me Out To Dry’ where Simmonds’ guitar dances to a gritty funking beat. If the first number’s a complaint, the second one starts explaining why and with the third he starts planning revenge.
‘Payback Time’ applies the kind of brash rhythm guitar strokes Wilco Johnson used in Dr Feelgood over a tune that resembles ‘Love Potion No. 9’ while his lead work goes Latino on us. So far a very danceable record, not what this listener expected.
Savoy Brown long and winding family tree encompasses members who’ve been in Black Sabbath, Fleetwood Mac, Foghat and UFO among others, and extending along that latter limb if you’ve heard Waysted’s cover version of ‘Price Of Love’ then the heavy churn of ‘Red Light Mama’ will feel familiar, some really solid drumming backing this one. ‘Conjure Rhythm’ then has us back to snake weaving, hip gyrating guitars over a “voodoo beat”. A song that makes you want to swig a cold bottle of beer, no matter what the time of day.
Picking the tempo up again, we have Mexicana night time blues with DeSalvo’s dominant bass line almost telling us where to place our feet as we dance in line, suited and booted, our guns strapped to holster deep in jackets ready to be unleashed to do deadly deeds after just one more glass of tequila. This, my friends is ‘Wearing Thin’. ‘City Night’ by contrast plays out as standard 12 bar shuffle initially, but as Simmonds starts outlining sights and happening of the city at night it picks up its pace, adds a tempered menace, and his guitar calls out at turns bold and brash, wary and watchful before extending a long solo to see the song safely home.
‘Hang In Touch’ is propelled by a heavy duty Bo Diddley beat. The three piece make mincemeat of ZZ Top and show how Motorhead might’ve sounded had they played the blues. ‘Superstitious Woman’ marries 50s rock guitar arpeggios to Texas-Mexicana downbeat blues while evoking New Orleans hoodoo speak.
Final number ‘Ain’t Gonna Worry’ is the loose-hipped epiphany to what we may view as something of an angry and troubled mind running through large segment of this album. It’s again got that upbeat hard right hand shrug of a rhythm guitar trucking along, with the rhythm section all tooled up setting either side, while the lead lines pulls out to shake, rattle and roll in a frenzy of classy blues and rock. The pace picks up, rallying fast and furious towards a careful car crash conclusion. The silence that fills your speakers then proving just as meaningful.
Most of the tracks come in at 4-5 minutes long, ‘City Night’ itself a little longer at 6.13. Enough room to tell a tale, play some guitar and maybe a bit more when performed live. The record testifies loud and clear that Savoy Brown are still alive and kicking, long may they prove to be so.
City Night by Savoy Brown is available on Quarto Valley Records and well worth checking out.