The Heavy North – Delta Shakedown (3rd Planet Recordings)
Delta Shakedown is the eagerly anticipated follow up to The Heavy North’s critically acclaimed 2022 debut LP Electric Soul Machine, which led to them receiving airplay from such diverse sources as Radio X and the Radio 2 Rock Show.
The band are making big waves in their hometown of Liverpool (they are playing one of the cities largest venues later this year) and this record could be the one that garners them a bigger following all round the country, nay globally. The reason for their success so far has been eschewing the path taken by so many Scouse bands of trying to replicate Shack, The La’s, or heaven forbid, The Beatles and following their own template of the 60’s/70’s heavy rock sound instead.
To this end, they are now a six-piece having recruited an extra guitarist since the first record and this has made a significant difference in beefing up their sound, making them even more of a heavy (no pun intended) proposition. Their debut EP was entitled Dive BarBlues and it’s a pretty apt place-to-start description of the album to come, albeit a simplistic one that doesn’t take into account the breadth of variety on offer.
Delta Shakedown starts with the title track, which works well as a mission statement for the record as a whole, it is chockful of the confidence of a band on the up with a successful debut behind them, conjuring, as it does, the spirit of an almost bygone age, very Doors-like in its execution, with a divine keyboard swirl directing the flow of the song.
It’s followed by the three pre-album singles that they released earlier in the year, ‘Where Are You Now’, ‘Give A Little Love’ and ‘Round Again’, a trio of more straightforward rocky tracks, where the bands influences shine through but these are not wholesale attempts of trying to sound just like them, more like various flourishes, a touch of Black Keys here, a reminisce of Black Crowes there. It’s by the end of these that you can hear just what a tight outfit they are, moulded by a few years of playing live, each of the individual instruments seeming to gel as one solid unit with vocalist Kenny Stuart then growling atop them.
Things slow down somewhat from this frenetic early pace on ‘I See You, Do You See Me’, which the band recorded almost live in the studio, and it’s this production, which was done by their guitarist Jose Ibanez, that starts to really catch the attention, perfectly capturing the band’s sound clearly throughout.
They open then second half of the album by catching the listener off-guard by venturing into a previously unheard funkier direction on ‘I Couldn’t Love You More’ with the addition of some wah-wah guitar and female backing vocals showing off the undoubted versatility without it ever sounding forced or manufactured in any way.
”I got you, so I don’t need money” is the chorus of the aforementioned ‘Don’t Need Money‘, and there is a sweetness in the lyrics that comes through in between the soaring guitars, showing their lighter side, and the sonic notches are remain way down again on the almost campfire singalong vibe of ‘Play It Safe‘, showing they can do simple acoustic tones with a hint of brass as well, a counterpoint to the blood and thunder, bringing hints of early solo Paul Weller.
‘Rosanna‘ (alas, not a cover of the Toto classic) brings back the trumpets, and things come to a close with the six minute-plus ‘Forever Without You’, which almost drawls towards a crescendo, the album finishing as it began, a swirling rock cacophony, they seem to be genuinely loving the noise that they are making.
It’s the sound of a band on a strong upwards trajectory, doing it on their terms, slightly out of step with the mainstream, but on the basis of this record then that’s the path for them.
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