The Rhythm Slicks “Howlin’”
Release Date: June 2020
Review Date: 23rd July 2020
The Rhythm Slicks are a 4 piece Rockin’ outfit from South Wales (one of the hotbeds of rockin’ rebellion since the dawn of Rock n Roll) and I do have to admit some familiarity with both the band itself and its individual members. I have been lucky enough to work on some events with the boys and their live shows never dissappoint.
The full line up is Kevin Burnett (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) who is also the main songwriter (all songs are band originals), Nick Jones (lead guitar) whose background isnt pure rockin’, he has experience in the jazz and rock fields and brings something new to the sound, Tony Biggs (Double Bass) who will be familiar to many of you from other band like The Rimshots and finally Mark Kemlo, one of the finest drummers to ever raise a stick in Roots music.
So lets get howlin’, track one “Black Whiskey” explodes out of my speakers and I already know where I am and where I’m going. This is also a live favorite and is an incredible song, a potential “Track Of The Year” for me. Kevin won’t mind me saying he isn’t the tallest man but what a strong voice he possesses (like many welsh vocalists he has a choir background) and he really delivers on this. You also already get a sense of the incredible guitar sounds that are going to be a highlight all through this album with Nicks Licks (poetry boy) propelling this song somewhere special. Another great riff launches “Blowing Through” and the guitar variety on this track is insane. I’m not ignoring Tony and Mark but their backbeat is a given, we have one of the best rhythm sections on the planet providing an incredible platform for Kev and Nick to build their sonic paintings upon. “Destiny Brown” is track 3 and eases off a little with Nick’s jazz training coming to the fore, a lovely swinging groove and a nice demo of the bands versatility. We return quickly to rockin riff’s and a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Chris Issak album “Blue Voodoo”. We’re down in the swamp and the gorgeous riffs, licks and notes keep us there for almost 4 minutes. After a bit of a rest we go uptempo again and one guaranteed to fill dancefloors with boppers and another potential “Track Of The Year” for me, that’s two now!! “Howlin’” is written by Kev and Nick (who came up with the riff first, Kevin adding lyrics to suit) and its an instant classic for me, a superb combination of all the elements from 4 musicians at the top of their games.
On Vinyl that would be the end of side one and we turnover to side 2 with another blaster “Jumpin Mr. Rockford” which is closer to a pure rockabilly sound with Nick joining Kevin on vocals. In the main this is a high energy album and this track is off the charts, it’s incessant driving pulse just demands attention but could I survive a dance to this? Only one way to find out. We ease back a little on the throttle for “Black Hearted Woman” and its probably at the fast end of the stroll spectrum and its another twin attack of great vocals and red hot guitar. We stay on the stroll spectrum for “Red Devil Baby” which is almost as scary a nickname as the previous track, I ain’t messing with either of these ladies. Strong walking blues flavor to this one and Nick once again goes places in his solos most pure rockabilly leads wouldn’t be able to reach. We brighten and lighten with “Storm Blowing Ali”, another track that wears its swing influences easily. Once again there is an incredible tone to the lead solos and I believe that Nick is playing a handbuilt electric built precisely to his specifications and NO pedals were used at any time. And all too quickly we reach the end of the album and we close with more blues bop brilliance. “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” opens with that familiar blues bop riff we’ve heard a hundred times in recent years but then it gives so much more. Tony and Mark are still there in the background laying the best of foundations which the incredible instuments of Kevins voice and Nicks Licks (enjoyed it so did it twice) build something special on. I’m offically exhausted now but extremely satisfied.
Not easy to summarise when so much is going on in ten tracks but this is an album that has all the elements required to be a pure rockabilly album but adds other flavors and takes some unexpected turns. There are pinches of blues, jazz, swamp pop added to the pot. The album title is “Howlin’ “ and perhaps one way to describe the overall sound of the album is if Howlin’ Wolf made a Rockabilly Album, it might sound like this.
The album comes out on Foot Tapping Records and I must give credit to Graham Dominy for the great job done mixing this album. Each element is crystal clear and the combination is electrifying. Some members of this band have been stars on the rockin’ scene for decades and will remain so for decades to come but I really think this album announces two new stars in Kevin and Nick and I doubt if I will hear a better guitar album all year. PLAY IT LOUD
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I think most general roots fans will love this album but I highly recommend this for fans of “Blues Flavored Riff Based Rockabilly”, but really any music fan could buy with confidence.
Review by Eamonn Doyle.
1. Black Whiskey
2. Blowing Through
3. Destiny Brown
4. Blue Voodoo
6. Jumping Mr. Rockford
7. Black Hearted Woman
8. Red Devil Baby
9. Storm Blowing Ali
10. Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing