After he had read my review of MARIËLLA TIROTTO’s Live album recently (See my blog entry #34), I was contacted by ARNE GOOSSENS of Dutch Blues-Rock outfit BLUESHAKER, who wondered if I’d like to review the band’s debut album Handle With Care (released last December); sending me a Spotify link so I could listen to their sounds. After briefly putting an ear to it, I certainly wanted to; so he then sent me a CD copy.
The band currently consists of: Goossens himself (Vocals); plus, PJ JOCHEMS (Guitars); PETER DOPPEN (Drums); and MARK VAN RIEL (Bass/backing vocals) – competent musos, all. Additional horns have been brought in as required too. Along with the CD, I was sent a factsheet detailing the biography of the band. Apparently they had existed as ‘a more traditional Blues-Rock band’ until early 2011, when they split, with only Goossens remaining. But once the current members were recruited, it was clear that ‘something special’ was happening. They immediately began to experiment with genres outside the norms expected from such a group. It seems they have a desire to merge Blues and Rock with Funk, Jazz, Fusion – or whatever! Considering that fact then, the name ‘Blueshaker’ is entirely appropriate – as shaking up the Blues is exactly what this band are about!
The album is a nine-track opus of original material; mostly penned by the band collectively, or by individual members co-writing with others. Now, I like music that both reminds me of earlier sounds, yet offers me something new and refreshing too. I love Blues, but I’ll admit it can be formulaic and predictable at times. I love Rock too; but, as we all know, it can become clichéd and tired. So I like this band’s progressive attitude of pushing the boundaries of accepted Blues-Rock norms. And that is what characterises this album – and, of course, this was the band’s intention from the outset.
Right from the kick-off – with the instrumental ‘Tailchasin’ – I’m reminded, in some measure, of Led Zep; SRV; Jimmy V; Jerry Donahue; and even The Rock-A-Teens. (I don’t think I’ve ever said that before!) But there is an interesting originality, even within this first tune, with its series of ever changing time-signaures. It is a good opener, and immediately demonstrates the unpredictable ethos of the album – and of the band generally. Its unusual to have an instrumental as an opener too – but then why not?
‘Need A Break’ introduces us to Goossens’ vocals for the first time. His voice, and even his vocal style, remind me a little of Scorpions’ Klaus Meine (and Golden Earing’s Barry Hay to some extent); yet still he demostrates fine originality and vocal strength – ideally suited to the great variety of styles and vibes contained within the album as a whole. Its a good rocker of a song too; with an interesting quieter section mid-way. Lyrically its an observation of modern day living.
‘Only When I’m Drunk’ was a surprise for me. Its a funky number with excellent brassy fills from the horn section – brought in especially. It is nicely arranged, with the vibe of the song suiting the lyric – and what Jochems is doing with his tremolo arm is quite remarkable! It is followed by ‘Charity’, which is the nearest to a standard Blues song in the collection; yet nonetheless, it has a unique edge to it. I like this one. Good steady work from the rhythm section and a great solo.
‘Remember’ is a trip down memory lane. It has a catchy arpeggio and a fine lead guitar break. This is followed by ‘Dominant 7’ – according to the factsheet, its for ‘the listeners who are into anthroponomy’. Its about seven ‘women who like to dominate, like the fifth step in a scale’ – excellent line! Quite a heavy Blues in an 11/8 time signature.
The lyric for the next offering, ‘For Tomorrow’s Day’, was apparently derived from verses written by Dutch poet Hans Andreus. They are the words of a tortured soul, I think. The band have written dark, desperate (and highly appropriate) music to accompany his words. It is meant as a memorial to the band’s loved ones who have recently passed away. It is masterful in its execution; with great vocals by Goossens.
‘Bride On Sight’ is about the modern internet phenomenon of the ‘mail-order bride’ – available at the touch of a button from anywhere in the world. It starts as a good middle-weight Rock piece, but has interesting Jazzy sections that facilitate the lead guitar solo. Finally, ‘Reminiscence’ ends the album. It is another instrumental – and a fine one too. It is beautiful and bluesy; with something of a Focus-esque vibe to it.
Generally, comparisons with other Dutch bands are inevitable (especially to those of us outside The Netherlands who have not been exposed to too many); and there are snippets of many other influences to be heard in their work (too numerous to mention here – or too subtle to put your finger on); but I think both musically and lyrically, this is very much ground-breaking work. I like it a lot; and if you are not afraid to listen to sounds outside of the normal ring-fences of Blues-Rock, you’ll like it too.
The CD comes in a standard jewel case; and it has lyrics (in English) printed in the accompanying booklet. It has a fine design (by Goossens), with photos and credits etc. I also received a second factsheet from the band with an explanation of each song, which is very useful – although unfortunately this information is not printed in the booklet – nor is the info on the biography sheet.
Here is a link to band’s music on Spotify….
Geweldige nieuwe muziek! PTMQ